A growing breed of health-tech startups building platforms for patients to communicate with doctors through live chat or video can take a heart from a new study that demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US claim that virtual video visits can successfully replace office visits by patients on a large scale without compromising on the quality of care and communication they receive, reported Science Daily.
Virtual video visits use a secure application over a computer or tablet to enable patients to chat with health professionals.
The MGH TeleHealth Program started offering virtual video visits at the beginning of 2013. The study surveyed 254 patients and 61 clinicians.
“Some of the participants in our study were parents of children who needed multiple frequent visits or older patients for whom travel was difficult to arrange,” said Karen Donelan, a scientist at the MGH-affiliated Mongan Institute Health Policy Center and the lead author of the paper that was published online.
“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 added.
The study revealed that 62% of the participating patients felt that the quality of the checkup was on par with office visits while 21% believed that it is actually better. In terms of health professionals who participated in the study, the numbers stood at 59% and 25% respectively.
The study found that 79% of the patients who participated in the programme felt that finding a convenient time for a follow-up virtual video visit was easier than in the case of a traditional office visit.
Clinicians also reported that virtual video visits are superior to office visits for timely scheduling of patient appointments (70.5%) and for visit efficiency (52.5%).
However, many clinicians did caution that virtual visits may not be appropriate for all the patients and every situation.
“Those who rated the visits lower were generally concerned about technical issues they experienced during their first use of the system. Those issues were usually resolved at the time of the visits with technical assistance.” the report elaborated.