Virtual Visits: A Viable Option for Patients with Chronic Conditions

Making a trip to the doctor is tough for patients with chronic conditions such as arthritis and diabetes.  As a result, patients sometimes avoid getting the important follow-up care that they need.

Good news: Asynchronous virtual care can provide these patients with the on-going care required to successfully manage their conditions, according to a study published in the July 2014 issue of Telemedicine and e-Health.

The study explored the use of virtual care at a busy primary care clinic among patients with 10 common chronic conditions. Instead of booking an in-office follow-up visit, these patients were directed online to complete a questionnaire pertaining to their condition, seven to 28 days after their original visit.  Physicians, in turn, would then review the responses and inform the patient of treatment decisions online. 

More good news: This alternate mode of care delivery is well-liked. Indeed, the study found that more than 80 percent of patients were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the virtual care process. The online visits also save clinicians a considerable amount of time.

"It is obviously much more convenient for the patient because he doesn't have to come in, but also patients are more likely to agree to see their doctor more often in a virtual mode.  They are more likely to follow up for evaluation and management," said John Schmucker, program lead of the Virtual Practice Project at Massachusetts General Hospital, while speaking at the Medical Informatics World Conference in April of 2014.  "In this way, the physician patient relationship is strengthened and patients feel they are getting better care."

According to the study, these asynchronous virtual visits for patients with chronic medical conditions are, indeed, an effective – and time-saving – treatment option. What's more, the visits could potentially improve access to care, while reducing costs, the study concluded.