Telehealth vs Virtual Care: Unraveling the Differences

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on September 4, 2023
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Hey there, have you ever wondered what the difference is between telehealth and virtual care? If you’re seeking mental health services online, it’s crucial to understand these terms. They might sound similar but refer to distinct aspects of online healthcare.

The Online Mental Health Review Team, a group of licensed healthcare professionals with extensive experience in the mental health field, is uniquely qualified to write about telehealth and virtual care.

With backgrounds ranging from residential mental health centers to counseling roles and a proven track record recognized by TedEd and APNews, our team leverages its comprehensive understanding of digital health services to provide readers with accurate, unbiased, and empathetic insights into telehealth and virtual care.

Let’s dive in and unravel the differences.

What is Telehealth?

Deliver Care Anywhere Through Telehealth and Virtual Care Solutions

Telehealth refers to the broad scope of remote healthcare services. It includes telemedicine (clinical services) and non-clinical services like provider training, administrative meetings, remote patient monitoring, and continuing medical education.

For example, imagine you’re dealing with anxiety and decide to seek help. With telehealth, you can consult a therapist remotely and participate in online support groups, get medication prescriptions, or wellness webinars.

You might also wear a remote monitoring device, consent to Electronic Health Records, and more.

What is Virtual Care?

Virtual care, on the other hand, is a subset of digital health tools and telehealth. It refers to digital interactions between patients and healthcare providers, usually for diagnosis, treatment, or ongoing care management.

Consider this scenario: You’re feeling symptoms of depression and need professional help. You can set up a video call with a psychiatrist who can diagnose your condition and prescribe medication from your home. This is virtual care.

Comparing Telehealth and Virtual Care

While both telehealth and virtual care leverage technology to provide healthcare services, their use cases differ.

Telehealth encompasses a broader range of services, such as remote monitoring devices, while virtual care focuses more on patient-provider interactions.

  • Telemedicine: Uses digital technology to deliver medical services remotely, including mental health counseling. (Mayo Clinic)
  • Telehealth: A broader term than telemedicine, it encompasses all health services provided remotely, including preventive, promotive, curative, comforting, and rehabilitative services. 
  • Access to Care: Telemedicine and telehealth increase access to mental health services, especially for those in remote areas or with mobility issues.
  • Cost-Effective: These services are often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy sessions. 
  • Convenience: Allows for therapy or consultations from the comfort of your home, saving time and travel expenses.
  • Privacy: Offers a degree of anonymity, making it easier for some individuals to seek help. 
  • 24/7 Availability: Many telehealth platforms offer round-the-clock service, which can be crucial during mental health crises.
  • Variety of Services: Telehealth covers various mental health services, from psychotherapy and group therapy to medication management
  • Online Tools & Resources: Many platforms provide additional resources like worksheets, modules, and mood-tracking tools. 
  • Interactivity: Video calls provide a more personalized and interactive experience than phone calls or text-based services. 

But remember, not all patients in all situations are suited for remote care. Severe psychiatric conditions might require in-person attention, and technical issues can sometimes interfere with service delivery.

Benefits of Both Telehealth and Virtual Care

  1. Accessibility: Virtual care and telehealth bring healthcare to your fingertips, making it accessible for individuals in remote areas, busy professionals, or those with mobility issues.
  2. Convenience: You can consult with healthcare providers from your home, reducing travel time and expenses.
  3. Affordability: Virtual care is often affordable and provides cost-effective solutions compared to traditional in-person consultations.
  4. Privacy and Anonymity: These platforms can offer a degree of privacy and anonymity, which may be comforting for those struggling with the stigma associated with mental health challenges.
  5. Wide Range of Services: Virtual care provides a broad spectrum of mental health services, from therapy sessions to stress management courses.
  6. Continuous Care: Telehealth allows for regular monitoring and follow-ups, ensuring constant care.
  7. Early Intervention: With more regular touchpoints, therapists can identify and address emerging mental health issues early.
  8. Resources: Many platforms like Zocdoc, Talkspace, Headspace, and Brightside Health offer additional resources such as articles, blogs, and community forums.

Making the Best Use of Telehealth and Virtual Care

Telehealth Occupational Therapy: An Emerging Frontier in Health Care

Choosing an exemplary online mental health service depends on your needs.

  1. If you’re looking for a comprehensive approach that includes clinical and non-clinical services, telehealth platforms might be your best bet.
  2. On the other hand, if you’re primarily interested in direct interaction with healthcare providers, consider virtual care services.

No matter what, always ensure the platform you choose is reputable and secure. Look for services that prioritize confidentiality and follow ethical guidelines. And remember, it’s okay to ask questions or voice any concerns you may have.

Telehealth VS Virtual Care Conclusion: 

While telehealth, remote care solutions, and virtual care share similarities, they cater to different aspects of online healthcare. Understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision about your mental health care by choosing the best providers.

After all, you deserve the best possible support on your journey to better mental health.

We hope this article has shed some light on the distinctions between telehealth and virtual care. To learn more about virtual care, see our articles covering top telepsychiatry companies, online doctors, virtual care groups, virtual urgent care, 24-hour care, and finding virtual care.

If you have any further queries or need clarification, please don’t hesitate to comment below. 

Our team would love to hear from you! Please comment below if you have any questions about telehealth or virtual care or a suggestion for a mental health software you think the Online Mental Health Reviews platform should review next. Your input helps us provide our readers with relevant and valuable information about behavioral health services.

If You’re In An Emergency:

Waiting for a virtual therapy session in an emergency might not be the safest option. If urgent assistance is required, mainly if there are thoughts or plans to harm oneself or others, it’s crucial to dial 911 immediately. Another resource available around the clock is the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, accessible by dialing 988. This lifeline provides immediate assistance for those contemplating self-harm. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also operates a National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357). This helpline is a cost-free, confidential service offering round-the-clock assistance for individuals battling mental health or substance abuse issues. It provides them with treatment options and related information throughout the year.

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