With so many resources available, you might feel overwhelmed and skeptical after “going online” to get answers to your medical questions. It can be difficult to decipher which sources you can trust or to know when it’s appropriate to seek advice from a medical professional.
It’s important to know the difference between online health information websites for consumers, such as WebMD, and the health care professional-to-patient care delivery service known as telemedicine, or telehealth.
Although both health information websites and telemedicine use digital technology, they are very different.
What is WebMD? How should it be used?
WebMD is one of the online publishers of consumer news and information pertaining to human health and well-being. Healthline is another example of an online publisher that brings information—and advertising—to consumers.
For simpler, day-to-day health questions, websites such as WebMD or Healthline, are good for providing general information. Online information services like these may be privately owned or owned by media companies or other business entities.
Although these websites work with doctors and health experts in an effort to make sure content is accurate and up to date, it’s a good idea to also check nonprofit sites such as Mayo Clinic or an association website such as the American Heart Association.
When you need medical help or advice about a health problem that’s worrying you, could be a symptom of a serious condition or disease, or is affecting your daily functioning, you should consult a medical professional.
That’s why most WebMD articles typically end with notes instructing readers to seek additional help and expertise from medical professionals. And that’s when you might decide to turn to telemedicine—an entirely different digital tool.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine involves the use of electronic communications technology, including two-way video, smartphones, and other wireless tools, so that medical professionals can deliver high-quality health care to patients.
Telemedicine connects patients to physicians regardless of their physical or geographic locations in order to:
- Improve access to care for patients
- Provide high-quality health care services
- Allow patients with chronic illness to monitor their conditions more easily and effectively
- Cut costs through reduced travel time and the potential to avoid the need for a trip to the emergency room or hospital
- Ease the shortage of health care providers—particularly specialists—by allowing them to take care of patients in rural or underserved areas without physically traveling to those locations
How is telemedicine different?
Telemedicine is much more than just looking up your symptoms, reading articles, and getting generalized information. You get to speak with real doctors via a secure communications line, so they can evaluate and diagnose you in real-time.
Telemedicine connects you to a health care provider, whereas websites like WebMD provide you with general information about a variety of health-related topics.
WebMD provides information for a large consumer audience, whereas telemedicine provides information that is specifically relevant to your personal health condition.
Knowing the difference between these two kinds of digital resources will leave you better equipped in your search for answers to all of your medical questions.