Virtual visits to your doctor improves convenience
Follow-up visits to the doctor’s office can sometimes be inconvenient, especially when multiple visits are needed. With increased use and availability of personal technology, a new avenue for consultation and real-time communication is possible so patients can access their doctors and health services through virtual visits. To help understand the perceived value of and the future use of technology in healthcare services, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) conducted a study on established patients in the MGH TeleHealth Program that launched in 2012.
59 per cent of health professionals providing virtual video visits agreed that, for the patients selected for these visits, virtual visit quality was like that of office visits although one third thought office visit quality was better.
Virtual visits were offered in the program from the beginning of 2013, where established patients from different departments including psychiatry, neurology, cardiology, primary care and oncology were eligible for virtual visits via video for follow-up care. The current study collected survey responses from 254 patients after their first visits and from 61 clinicians who participated in the first full year of the program.
The study found:
• 79 per cent of the patients felt that finding a convenient time for a follow-up virtual video visit was easier than finding time for a traditional office visit.
• 62 per cent of the patients reported the quality of virtual video visits was no different from that of office visits, and 21 per cent thought virtual visits’ overall quality was better.
• 59 per cent of health professionals providing virtual video visits agreed that, for the patients selected for these visits, virtual visit quality was like that of office visits although one third thought office visit quality was better.
• When rating their perception of a personal connection 46 per cent of clinicians said they thought office visits were better, compared to 33 per cent of patient.
• 68 per cent of patients rated virtual video visits at 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. Patients who rated the visits lower were generally concerned about technical issues they experienced during their first use of the system. Those issues were usually resolved at the time of the visits with technical assistance.
• Clinicians reported that virtual video visits are superior to office visits for timely scheduling of patient appointments (70.5 per cent) and for visit efficiency (52.5 per cent). They did caution that these visits are not appropriate for all patients in all situations.
The study provides insight that different types of follow-up care can be provided to patients such as text, video, online, home and office visits. Telehealth can successfully replace office visits as 95 per cent of the time spent by the patient is face-to-face communication with their doctor compared to less that 20 per cent of a traditional visit where more time is spent travelling and waiting. Telehealth services are especially convenient for parents with children who need multiple visits and older patients for whom travelling is difficult to arrange.
Source: American Journal of Managed Care