Everyone agrees that virtual care offers patients more convenience and access to physicians and specialists (especially in rural areas), plus reduced healthcare costs.
But virtual care has its advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s first Look at what is virtual care.
Virtual care incorporates the many ways doctors can offer healthcare services to patients via technology like video calls, phone calls, instant messaging, or remote monitoring, which could replace some in-person appointments.
What are the benefits of virtual care.
Virtual care is more convenient than most visits to the doctor.
Like many other industries that have moved towards digital services, convenience for everyone is the most obvious factor in the adoption of telehealth. Physically going to the doctor’s office, sitting in the waiting room, and sitting again in the exam room for a five-minute visit is not desirable when you could get the same level of care from virtually anywhere.
Virtual care is more cost-effective.
Virtual visits do save patients unnecessary trip to the emergency department by allowing them to check with a physician to know the most appropriate place to seek care.
It’s true, virtual options increase access in rural areas.
There has been a decline in access to healthcare in rural areas which is another reason for increasing use of virtual care.
20% of the U.S. population live in rural areas, but less than 8% of doctors and healthcare professionals service those areas.
When a patient cannot find the help they need locally, they can connect with a specialist through any device with an internet connection. This allows patients and families to obtain healthcare and access to prescriptions without traveling long distances.
Virtual care does improve health outcomes.
Virtual care also offers a “return on health.”
Virtual care increases access to specialists for faster and more accurate diagnoses and treatments
- This improves medication adherence
- A reduction is hospital admissions
- An increase in patient satisfaction scores
Virtual care reduces tension on the healthcare system.
The same reasons virtual care became dominant during the COVID-19 pandemic is also a benefit of virtual care. Virtual care allows providers to improve their team’s efficiency and meet the needs of more patients while reducing wait times.
Virtual care increases access to specialists irrespective of the patient or provider’s location.
Improved technology has released us from the bounds of geography. We are now able to pick the best options for our lives, and now the healthcare industry is trending in the same direction.
There are some potential downsides of virtual care
Virtual care options could impact a patients continuity of care.
As with any healthcare service sometimes your provider is not your usual primary care physician or specialist. Potentially, they may not have access to your complete records, which increases the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors.
It is true virtual care cannot replace every in-person visit.
Many medical procedures and surgeries require patients to be physically present.
The question becomes when should you use virtual care as an alternative to making an in-person visit?
The answer is when no physical exams need to occur, and the reason to speak with a professional is to discuss a patient’s lifestyle or test results, virtual visits are a no-brainer.