Health supersedes almost everything else in our lives. It’s a lesson we learned the hard way during the coronavirus pandemic, which was a deadly ordeal for the world, but it gave us a new appreciation for our health. The pandemic also helped us realize how important the internet has become for our daily lives and in-keep everything functional. Thanks to the internet, millions of people managed to stay employed and kept working from home. It also ensured that the education of children continues with relatively minimal disruption. But the internet has helped us in one other way as well: bringing healthcare advice to our fingertips. That’s what Telehealth is all about.

Representation of healthcare through a computer

If you are using telecom (phone calls, messages, internet) to contact a medical professional or healthcare provider to seek medical advice, that’s telehealth. While it gained momentum and popularity in recent years, especially with the growing influence of the internet but the concept of telemedicine has started for centuries. When someone in a remote village got sick, and their loved ones couldn’t take them to a faraway medical practitioner, they would send someone else to seek medical advice or bring the practitioner back to the village. 

The medium of communication and exchange was radically different, but it does fall under the umbrella of telehealth. It evolved over time and started leveraging newer technologies. In 1879, a doctor diagnosed a child successfully, thanks to the telephone. In times of medical crises, doctors sometimes disseminated general medical advice over the radio. Radios have been used to give medical advice to ships since the 1920s. 

With technological improvements, telehealth has evolved into a much more productive and potent form. Thanks to decent quality microphones, doctors can analyze the sounds of their remote patients better and make more accurate diagnoses. Cameras have made remote visual inspections possible, and doctors can observe a significantly wider range of symptoms remotely. Sensors in our phones and smart monitors have also made things significantly easier for both patients and doctors. Telehealth also covers long-distance care, remote therapies, and even medical education. 

Telehealth and Telemedicine

Before we discuss how telehealth works, it’s important to distinguish between two terms that are often used interchangeably (even though they shouldn’t). There is a lot of overlap between telemedicine and telehealth, but telehealth has a significantly wider scope. 

Telemedicine is often limited to diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment (in a very limited scope). In contrast, telehealth covers a lot more under its umbrella. Telehealth includes remote nursing, pharmaceutical advice, preventive care, psychotherapy, and even telesurgery. 

So what is telehealth? Any medical communication, observation, or procedure that uses telecom channels will likely fall under the umbrella of telehealth.


How Does Telehealth Work?

The scope of telehealth is quite wide, and each element of telehealth might have a different mode of operation. But in most cases, the steps are as follows.

  • You will need a phone or a computer and a stable internet connection to find and connect with telehealth professional. If you want the doctor to do a visual inspection, you’d also need a camera. 
  • You need to search for a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform. There are several other non-compliant platforms as well, but to ensure that you are getting advice from a licensed practitioner and through a platform that’s properly regulated, make sure it’s HIPAA compliant.
  • Relatively few telehealth portals have provisions for an emergency consultation (because in case of an emergency, you should always try to go to an HR). But if you need medical advice fast, you might be able to find some telehealth platforms that cater to an emergency medical need. 
  • For regular consultations, you will need to book an appointment. It might be easier to connect with physicians than specialists. Then on your designated time slot, you will be able to consult with a health expert.

That’s how telemedicine works. Telehealth portals typically offer a wider range of services. For example, many telehealth platforms allow medical practitioners to connect with their patients through their portal and offer case management services and a centralized database. Combined with lab services, these platforms can be instrumental in long-term remote patient care. 

Another major avenue where telehealth plays a critical role in mental health. This is one avenue that has evolved quite rapidly during the pandemic because people were cooped up in their homes for so long that it started affecting their mental health and well-being. Through telehealth, these people could seek help from relevant medical professionals.

Telehealth also encompasses Peer Wellness, which works a bit differently. Many people struggling with chronic medical issues or certain mental conditions respond well when they communicate with others who’ve been through a similar situation or have experienced the same problems. These “peers” seem more relatable, and many patients find it easier to open up to them. The pure form of this practice is in a controlled group, but the telehealth way works just as well. In fact, having more control over communication and being in the comfort of their homes can actually be more therapeutic for certain individuals.

Another benefit of telehealth is that patients can choose their mode of communication. If they are too shy to talk, they can communicate using texts. 


Telehealth covers a very wide spectrum, and its potential is still highly untapped, especially when it comes to long-term care or mental health issues. It’s expected that telehealth might see another phase of revolutionary innovations with advances in robotics. But even now, it can be a powerful tool for the healthcare industry and a highly convenient way for patients to connect with their physicians. For patients, the convenience lies in getting medical advice from a licensed healthcare professional without leaving the comfort of their home. It eliminates the need to commute to a healthcare facility and waiting time. It’s also a much more affordable form of healthcare. For physicians, it reduces the need to maintain and run a clinic and bear exaggerated overhead costs if they can simply consult and give advice over the internet.