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Virtual Care vs. Telemedicine: What is the Difference?

Virtual Care vs. Telemedicine: What is the Difference?

Posted by on Jun 20th 2024

The Internet has brought many conveniences to the medical field, including the ability for patients to receive care and virtually meet with providers at home rather than making an in-office visit. These advancements have made healthcare more accessible for those who might be mobile-impaired, immunocompromised, or live in rural or remote areas with limited providers available.

You may encounter a few terms to describe these types of services, with some of the most common including virtual care and telemedicine. While these might seem interchangeable, there are actually some distinct differences between them that providers and patients should be aware of.

What is Telemedicine?

In general, telemedicine refers to the use of telecommunications–like phones or video services–to deliver patient care remotely. Telemedicine is more concerned with the clinical aspects of healthcare, such as diagnosis, treatment, consultations, and follow-ups.

For example, if a patient suspects they have a sinus infection and are feeling too unwell to visit a clinic in person, they can use a telemedicine service to have a real-time video consultation with their doctor. From a distance, they can evaluate the patient’s symptoms and prescribe the necessary medication.

What is Virtual Care?

Virtual care is a broad term that encompasses any type of interaction between healthcare providers and patients using digital technologies outside of a clinical setting. This might include instant messaging, speaking with them over the phone or on live video, remote monitoring through wearable devices, or accessing health information through a self-service online portal. Thus, telemedicine is a practice that falls into the category of virtual care.

In this case, virtual care might be used on a patient with a chronic heart condition who uses a wearable device to monitor their heart rate and blood pressure. The data can be automatically transmitted to their healthcare provider, who reviews the information remotely and can adjust the patient’s treatment plan as needed without requiring in-person visits.

Comparing Telemedicine vs. Virtual Care

To further illustrate the differences between telemedicine and virtual care, we’ll now provide a quick breakdown of how the two concepts compare on certain aspects like the scope of care, delivery method, and more.


Again, virtual care is a broader term that includes various health services that are delivered digitally. On the other hand, telemedicine has a more narrow focus and is mostly dedicated to the remote delivery of clinical healthcare services.

Technology Platforms

While virtual care uses a wide range of technologies and platforms, including digital monitors and wearable technology, telemedicine primarily uses phone and video services to facilitate real-time patient interactions.

Patient Interaction

With virtual care, patients might be continuously monitored and can interact with providers over a variety of channels. However, telemetry mainly involves scheduled, one-on-one consultations between patients and providers for symptom evaluation and diagnosis.