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Practices adopt virtual visits to diagnose and treat minor ailments

Virtual consultation, or telemedicine, is a relatively new method through which healthcare professionals can communicate with their patients and use clinical archiving and other online information to make a diagnosis and recommend treatment. According to a new study published in BioMed Central, such online sessions can be a more efficient use of a physician's' time while maintaining overall patient satisfaction.

Telemedicine allows doctors to provide care faster

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente found that physicians who used this technology were able to receive patient information more quickly as compared to meeting face-to-face. They also found that practitioners obtained the same amount and value of material under both circumstances. Patients can request such a consultation, which goes through the healthcare facility's electronic medical record system and matches the individual by age, sex, complaint and specialty department.

Authors of the study suggest that 25 to 70 percent of all patients do not require traditional face-to-face appointments. For these cases, internet connections that are secure may provide a window of opportunity to obtain medical care that is quicker, more efficient and less expensive. Leaving the house and traveling to see a doctor can be time consuming and unnecessarily costly for the individual in non-critical situations. It could also free up appointment availability for patients who truly need an office visit.

Patients who received a virtual consultation reported an average rating of 8.5 on a scale of one to 10, the study reports.

"I was as suspicious as anyone about getting treated over the computer," Amber Young, an uninsured 34-year-old patient, told USA Today. "But I could not have been happier with the service."

Some health insurance companies and large employers also encourage their customers and employees to participate in virtual visits or telemedicine for minor ailments, according to FierceHealth IT.

State boards may make virtual consultation difficult

One obstacle that healthcare professionals may face is that state medical boards may make it hard for them to use telemedicine, according to USA Today. For instance, doctors in Texas cannot treat new patients through virtual consultations based on the 2010 ruling by the Texas Medical Board. The only exceptions are allowed in cases when the patient is physically at a clinic, EMS station or pharmacy where there is a competent staff member and appropriate diagnostic tools available to assist the physician with the evaluation.

Regulations for telecommunication are set for accountability reasons so that patients are protected. However, many medical boards that implemented such restrictions are becoming less strict due to the high demand for the technology, the news source reports.

News brought to you by TeraMedica, Inc., leaders in healthcare enterprise imaging (VNA) solutions.