The Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare reports on a study regarding videoconferenced physician visits versus face-to-face ones. (Article) In a number of settings, including home, the workplace and retail stores, patients increasingly have the ability to have a video interaction with a physician. Some payers are encouraging these, as they may be less expensive. The potential convenience is obvious. Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital looked at how patients and physicians reacted to video visits compared to in-person encounters.
While physicians had a preference for face-to-face visits, they also had a high level of satisfaction with the video ones. They had the greatest issues with physical examination by video and to some extent with their ability to choose and order diagnostic tests. They found they ability to take histories to be equivalent in the two modes. Patients also preferred in-person encounters, but similarly had a high level of satisfaction with the video visits. Patients were most willing to pay for video encounters if they had a musculoskeletal or respiratory complaint and least willing if it were gastrointestinal or cardiovascular. Patients with chronic conditions tended to be less satisfied with electronic interactions.
Interestingly, travel costs or time, lost time at work or need for childcare did not appear to influence satisfaction or willingness to pay for video visits. Willingness to pay rose, however, if the patient had to impose on a family and friend support system. Telemedicine appears poised to take another significant leap forward in prevalence. It’s use seems to be well-accepted by physicians and patients. A number of studies suggest that quality is equivalent. It remains to be seen, however, whether it can play a role in reducing overall costs and spending.