New Study Shows Effectiveness of Virtual Doctor Visits

Updated: 4/14/2014

With an aging population, the anticipated explosion of Obamacare patients, and an expected shortage of doctors, telemedicine and online health care could be the innovation that will save health care.  Through telemedicine, patients can have easy virtual visits with a doctor via emails, phone, video, or other devices. The question is whether online health care is as effective as seeing your doctor in person.

Scientific American reported a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggesting that for certain routine illnesses, at least, “seeing” a doctor online could be just as effective as seeing a doctor in person.  In the study, patients with sinus issues and bladder infections were able to get a diagnosis simply by updating their medical profiles with a description of their symptoms and conditions. The only noticeable difference was a higher likelihood of getting antibiotics prescribed.

A study in the Health Affairs journal reviewed the effectiveness of the online clinic virtuwell which was started in 201.  The virtuwell online clinic diagnoses and treats common conditions such as flu, deer tick bites, and yeast infections. The review of 40,000 cases found that the online clinic reduced costs by $88 per virtual visit compared with the traditional office visit besides saving patients time and inconvenience. 98 percent of patients gave the virtual visit a “would recommend” rating.

MobiHealthNews reported another study from the Journal of the American Medical Association.  It describes a successful weight loss program where patients regularly updated their weight, exercise habits, etc. via a mobile device. They would then be regularly coached over the phone based on this data. What makes this study interesting, according to its researchers, is that while other PDA studies have included “intensive in-person treatment sessions,” this study “demonstrates that a mobile intervention can be a substitute for expensive, in-person sessions.”

Do Virtual Doctor Visits Compromise Health Care?

While the number of online health care services are growing, some practitioners are still skeptical of its effectiveness USA Today reports.  Dr. Mohamad Sidani, professor at Meharry Medical College, is one doctor who is concerned about information that may be lost through phone and email.  He says the only way he would practice telemedicine is if the information were relayed to him by a nurse.  He emphasizes,

“face-to-face interaction is crucial for adequate diagnosis…. If it is over the phone, I won’t be able to see that patient’s face…. It can tell a lot about whether he is in severe pain or distressed or not. And the way he is moving. Body language is very important.”

Source: Dial-a-doctor, online services cut office visits – USA Today

Video conferencing would seem to be the logical solution.  Dr. Rakesh Khatri, Medical Director of the Stroke Care Now Network, has practiced telestroke in settings that were both equipped with video and those without. He notes that even though it may be more expedient to have information relayed to you by a nurse or doctor, when you have a  direct video connection,”you can actually talk to patient. It’s a more personal touch…you can look and connect. Sometimes when you are unsure of findings, seeing the patient lets you make surer decisions.”

With the potential to make health care more accessible and less expensive without sacrificing quality, online health care looks to have a bright future!

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Comments ( 5 )
  • anne
    Alex Peter says:

    In todays world, Telemedicine is the right option for everyone.
    MediAngels is the one source for second medical opinion, You can consult a doctor online

  • anne
    Douglas Mackenzie says:

    Online doctor consultation can only be helpful when the patient is facing a minor problem; not a major one. However, this system is actually very convenient for simple health issues that you may face in everyday life. Online health care can save a lot of time.

  • anne
    lcmass says:

    online medical consultation helps even in emergency also ..people can consult from online for their treatment
    this type of facilities available on this site also please visit
    online medical consultation

  • anne
    Alice says:

    Researchers considering the feasibility and effectiveness of virtual doctors visits report that patients and physicians found that evaluations done through videoconferencing were similar to face-to-face visits on most measures, according a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare.

  • anne
    James Borst says:

    It is interesting that 98 percent of patients gave a “would recommend” rating for their virtual visit. My wife and I have been seeing a lot of commercials on TV of a family in the mountains with a scraped up elbow and doing an online medical visit so they don’t leave the mountains unless the doctor recommends it. That seems like something my wife and I would use when our kids are old enough to enjoy a camping. We may also consider a medical answering service as an option as well.

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