Accuracy of virtual doctor’s visits is brought into question by new research

 News Brief by Julia O’Gara

            Consultations performed over the phone, by videochat, or by videoconference have become increasingly common; however, standards for care performed via an Internet connection have not been kept up to date. Adam J. Schoenfeld, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and coauthors hired 67 trained patients to consult 8 companies and gathered statistics on the accuracy of the diagnoses and how they were reached by the physician with whom the patients interacted. The most frequent format of virtual consultations were videoconference, followed by phone call and video chat.

         The patients were supposed to present with 6 common, acute maladies—sore throat, recurrent UTI, strep throat, ankle pain, lower back pain, and sinus infection. They were evaluated using the recommended questions about history and physical exam 69.9% of the time, and diagnosed correctly 76.5% of the time. This was not a consistent result across the board, as sinus infections and sore throats received a wider range of diagnoses than the other complaints.

         They also did not necessarily save the patients any time or money, as 13.9% ended up being referred to brick-and-mortar establishments at the end of the visit and 8.7% received no diagnosis at all.

The JAMA Network Journals. “How is the quality of care in a commercial virtual    visit?” Science Daily. Science Daily, 5 April 2016.