It sounded great to me. Wake up with a scratchy throat or pink eye, sign on to your computer and schedule an appointment for 30 minutes later with a doctor who will see you virtually, get to work on time. No need to take time out of your day or be exposed to all those other sick patients in the waiting room. Get medicated before you spread your ailment throughout the office.
But a few concerns have arisen. A recent RAND Corporation study compared 1,700 virtual visits to 64,000 in-office visits and found that while virtual doctors were just as likely to prescribe antibiotics for respiratory infections, 86% of virtual doctors prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics as compared with 56% for live visits. In addition, virtual doctors are far more reliant on self-reported symptoms and as a result, excessive care may be administered.
Another concern is excess use. Since it is very easy to access telemedicine services, some employers are concerned with serial users who can significantly increase the cost of primary care.
This new protocol definitely has a place in care delivery. My hope is that virtual visits will evolve into visits with a patient’s own primary care physician, rather than a random doctor who might be online. Additionally, many provider compensation arrangements are being tied to efficient care delivery. Physicians will be partners in keeping this service cost low. This would make telemedicine far more effective.