The quality of your care won't suffer if you choose video visits with your doctor, a new study suggests.
It included 254 patients and 61 healthcare providers who participated in virtual video visits offered by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The appointments are conducted online, using a computer or tablet and a secure application.
Patients used video visits for follow-up care from providers in psychiatry, neurology, cardiology, oncology and primary care. The hospital has offered video visits since 2013.
"Our findings confirm what I felt in my gut, which is that what patients value most is uninterrupted time with their doctor, and they put up with all the other challenges required to come see us," study senior author and neurologist Dr. Lee Schwamm said in a hospital news release. He directs the MGH Center for TeleHealth and MGH Comprehensive Stroke Center, and uses video visits extensively in his practice.
Highlights of the study:
- Seventy-nine percent of patients said finding a convenient time for a video visit was easier than for a traditional office visit; 62 percent said video and office visits were of equal quality; and 21 percent said virtual visits were better.
- Fifty-nine percent of healthcare providers said the quality of video and office visits were similar, while a third judged office visits better.
- Forty-six percent of providers judged office visits better in terms of the "personal connection" they felt, compared to 33 percent of patients.
- Sixty-eight percent of patients rated video visits at 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. Those giving lower scores were generally concerned about technical issues -- many of which were resolved at the time of their visits.
- Seven of 10 providers said scheduling timely appointments is easier with video visits and just over half said video visits were more efficient. They noted, however, that video visits are not appropriate for all patients in all situations.
The study was published Jan. 14 in the American Journal of Managed Care.
Lead author Karen Donelan said some study participants were parents of children who needed frequent doctor visits or older patients for whom travel was difficult.
"It did not surprise us that they found virtual visits more convenient, but we were impressed that nearly all perceived the quality of care or communication to be the same or better than at the traditional and familiar office visits," she said. Donelan is a senior scientist with Mongan Institute Health Policy Center at MGH.
Schwamm said virtual visits give patients more of what they want and eliminate things they don't want.
"With a telehealth visit, 95 percent of the time spent by the patient is face-to-face with the doctor, compared to less than 20 percent of a traditional visit, in which most time is spent traveling and waiting. Seen through that lens, our results are not surprising," he said.More information
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on telehealth.
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