How Virtual Reality is Changing Doctor’s Visits
Virtual visits have been on the rise in the last few years and it has made it easier for people to see doctors and has speed up the appointment time as doctors are able to see more patients in a virtual way. However, that also means that there is a need for assistance on a technological front recently that could have new applications and possibilities for these virtual visits. When people bring virtual reality into play, it would be possible to meet your doctor face to face with an almost lifelike experience if you were using this new technology.
Commercial virtual visits firms have grown rapidly and their adoption by patients also is on the rise. The level of the need to develop a regulatory framework or industry-promulgated rules will partly depend on the level of fluctuations in the quality of care among virtual visit companies.
Adam J. Schoenfeld, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and coauthors looked at the variation in the quality of urgent health care among eight virtual healthcare visit companies. The researchers’ audit study used 67 trained standardized patients who shared to the virtual visit companies with six common acute situations: ankle pain, streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat), viral pharyngitis (sore throat), acute rhinosinusitis (sinus infection), low back pain and recurrent female urinary tract infection.
The 67 patients enrolled in 599 commercial medical virtual visits with 157 internal medicine, emergency medicine or family practice physicians from May 2013 through July 2014. The visits included 372 video conferences, 170 telephone and 57 web chat sessions. The researchers examined the completeness of physical examinations and the history, correct diagnosis and adherence to relevant guidelines in supervisory decisions.
The researchers report virtual medical visit physicians:
- Asked all the suggested history questions and performed all the suggested physical examination procedures in 417 visits (69.6 percent)
- Gave the correct diagnosis in 458 trips (76.5 percent); named the wrong diagnosis in 89 trips (14.8 percent); or provided no diagnosis in 52 trips (8.7 percent)
- Adhered to procedures for key supervisory guidelines in 325 visits (54.3 percent)
- Sent patients to local brick-and-mortar health care operations in 83 patients encounters where needed (13.9 percent)
Results of the study suggest that the completeness of reports and physical examinations, and the correct diagnosis varied by situation of the patient and virtual visit company. Also, variation across virtual visit websites was larger for viral pharyngitis and acute rhinosinusitis than for streptococcal pharyngitis and low back pain or ankle pain and recurrent urinary tract infection. There was no variation in compliance to guidelines by means of communication, according to the results.
Research limitations include not knowing whether virtual visits are superior to or inferior to in-person visits, the exception of some virtual visit companies and the study’s population size.
The researchers concluded, ”We found a significant variation cross companies and by condition. The patterns of variation we observed imply an opportunity to improve and point toward approaches to determine how to make these improvements.”
Commentary: Health Care Technology For Communicating
Jeffrey A. Linder, M.D., M.P.H., and David M. Levine, M.D., M.A., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, write in a related article wrote, “Health care has had rapid changes in financing and shifts in the organization of care and continues to suffer the growing pains of building a modern information technology infrastructure. The high variability and uncoordinated care described by Schoenfeld and colleagues is low-value care. Mature health care communication technology should deliver high-value care that is flexible (online, telephone, in-person and emergent), coordinated, longitudinal and proactive based on strong relationships with a primary care team.”