Study: Online doctor consults can be as effective as office visits

January 22, 2013
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A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that some online visits to the doctor are quicker, less expensive and just as effective as a trip to the doctor’s office. Researchers compared 8,000+ e-visits and office visits at four primary care physician practices focusing on urinary tract infections (UTI) and sinus infections. Acute conditions, like minor infections, are illnesses that can be treated online, according to the study.

With a virtual doctor consultation, a patient can log on to his or her personal health record, answer questions about the health problem and receive a diagnosis and treatment orders within a few hours. The e-visit is then attached to the patient’s health record.

Researchers found that people with virtual visits were more likely to be prescribed antibiotics than those who visited the office.

According to the researchers, a UTI can be treated less expensively online. Insurance companies agree.

In a Washington Post article, James Rohrer, MD, a family physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says that more research into the effectiveness of online care is warranted.

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