Virtual Visits May Top Office Appointments for Care Quality, Experts Say

FJ Thomas

Boston, MA ( – Not only is telemedicine convenient, it may actually produce better outcomes — at least, in some cases. Experts are increasingly finding new benefits provided by the advanced technology.

A recent study released by the American Journal of Managed Care reviewed data provided by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The hospital began offering virtual visits in 2012 with their MGH TeleHealth Program. The program expanded to also include video visits in 2013 and contained a multitude of specialties; such as cardiology, psychiatry, neurology, oncology, and primary care. The hospital surveyed 254 established patients that had utilized the program, and 61 enrolled providers.

The findings included:

  • 79 percent of patients felt that video visits were easier to find time to schedule.
  • 62 percent of patients felt that there was no difference in quality between a face-to-face office visit and a video visit.
  • 21 percent of patients stated that the quality of a video visit was better than a traditional office visit.
  • 59 percent of the providers surveyed indicated that the video visit quality was equal to a traditional office visit for the patient population that was surveyed. One-third of the providers believed that the video visit was better than the face-to-face visit.
  • 46 percent of the providers and 33 percent of the patients perceived the personal connection to be better during a video visit.
  • 68 percent of patients gave a 9 or 10 satisfaction rating for the video visits. Lowers ratings were generally due to technical issues during the first visit which were resolved before subsequent visits.
  • 70.5 percent of the clinicians felt video visits were superior in the ease of scheduling. 52.5 percent stated that the effectiveness of the video visits were superior as well.

Director of the MGH Center for TeleHealth, Lee Schwamm, MD attributed the results of the survey to the fact that patients desire “uninterrupted time with their doctor” without the additional time challenges.

“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,” Schwamm said.

In an interview with Mary O’Donoghue, Chief Clinical and Product Officer for Medrisk cited the same reason for the success of telehealth for injured workers, especially those needing multiple visits for physical therapy. “The convenience of reduced travel and less time away from home or work is incredibly beneficial for both the patient and the employer,” she said

O’Donoghue also said there was an overall direct impact on patient care outcomes from telehealth. “Yes. There is definitely a positive impact on injured worker outcomes when telerehab becomes part of PT treatment. For the right patients, Telerehab provides a smoother transition to patient self-management. This helps to increase patient satisfaction, reduce the risk of re-injury and often results in faster return to work.”

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