Virtual Physician Consults
Telemedicine can improve access for home-bound patients or those in areas with limited health care resources. It can also provide access to scarce health care expertise. Due to reimbursement and other barriers, growth has been slow in use of communications technology to conduct physician visits. New research examines patient and doctor reaction to virtual visits, compared to traditional in-person ones. (BMJ Article) The research was conducted in Kaiser Permanente’s Colorado plan and related to specialty referrals, matching patients who did their referral visits in-person with those who did them remotely. About 267 patients and 88 primary care physicians completed surveys about the visits. One very interesting finding was that information and results from the consultation were provided to the primary care doctor much quicker from virtual visits than in-person ones, with 72% getting feedback in three weeks versus 34% in traditional consultations, but the quality and usefulness of the information was judged to be the same. About 60% of the virtual consultations led to a face-to-face visit with the specialist, indicating that about 40% of such referrals could be handled solely by a telemedicine visit. Patient satisfaction was equivalent with both types of consultations.