Is Virtual Care Real Medicine?
February 07, 2018
You’re sick and you need to see a doctor. But the last thing you want to do is get dressed, fight traffic and sit in a room with other sick people.
National statistics indicate that a person on average spends nearly two hours on a doctor appointment – this includes transportation, parking, paperwork and time in the waiting room. Yet the patient only sees a doctor for about 8 to15 minutes.
Time the patient spends getting to and from the appointment and the time spent on actual doctor-patient care are why virtual doctor appointments are growing. The Advisory Board reports that across various virtual appointment platforms, providers are able to resolve patient issues 83 percent of the time.
Virtual vs. Face-to-Face Visit
Although not intended to replace a relationship with a primary care provider, virtual appointments are a good option for routine health concerns.
Most doctors will tell you that simply talking to their patients is one of the most important parts of their assessment. Asking about their current symptoms, personal and family history; environment at work and home; and lifestyle habits can provide the physician with important information that can help them reach a diagnosis and develop a plan of care. A visual inspection of the patient can lend additional information to support that diagnosis. Both portions of a traditional office visit can be accomplished through an interactive virtual consultation.
Using the camera on your phone, computer or tablet, for example, UH Virtual Visit allows you to see a board-certified physician or nurse practitioner who can diagnose and treat a wide variety of minor illnesses like colds, flu, allergies, skin rashes and sinus problems. Appropriate medications can be prescribed and called into your pharmacy of choice.
Virtual care has its obvious limits. Some medical conditions require a physical assessment that cannot be done in a virtual setting. And for life-threatening emergencies, a trip to the ER is still your best choice.
Advantages of a Virtual Visit
“The biggest advantage is the convenience,” says urgent care specialist Wendy Kissinger, DO. “The UH Virtual Visit is ideal for treating low-acuity conditions that don’t need any physical intervention. It’s the same quality care, just in a different setting.”
Other advantages include:
- No risk of spreading or catching an infection in crowded waiting rooms
- Available 24/7 – 365 days a year
- Less wait and less expensive than an ER visit
Removing Barriers to Care
In addition to being a convenience, virtual visits have the potential to expand patient access when certain barriers to care exist. A virtual visit can provide health services for those who might otherwise not seek care, including those who:
- Live in remote or rural areas far from a health care center or provider
- Are wheelchair-bound or homebound due to illness, injury or advanced age
- Lack transportation
Future of Virtual Care
The capabilities of the remote medical consultation are quickly evolving. Before long, doctors will have the ability to listen to a patient’s heartbeat, take their blood pressure and even look inside their ears through the use of sophisticated technology, further expanding the reach and enhancing the value of virtual visits.
“Virtual health services put the control back in the patient’s hand,” says telehealth manager Andrew Moleski. “The technology isn’t designed to handle every health care need you might have, but it does provide an additional option for care in certain situations.”