Google is reportedly testing a service that connects patients with doctors over a video chat, across a limited number of users. As per the Verge report, when people search for basic health information (for example, knee pain), a blue icon appears in the search results offering the option of chatting with the doctor. Though more details regarding this service are not available yet, it seems that the new feature opens a new way for virtual office visits. With the aging baby-boomer population and rising medical costs, virtual office visits and electronic clinical documentation are really beneficial for patients and physicians.
According to the Verge report, the service ties into Helpouts. This is a marketplace, which can be used by experts to give lessons and advice over video chat and charge for their services. With this, the service currently on test implies a more vivid picture of virtual office visits and we can’t rule out the probability that virtual office visits will become more common if the testing proved successful. As per a study from Deloitte, around 75 million of 600 million appointments with general practitioners will involve virtual office visits or electronic visits (e-Visits) in 2014. Why are e-Visits so important in the current healthcare scenario?
Benefits of E-Visits
- E-visits are convenient and a less costly alternative to the traditional visit to the physician’s office. Video conferencing gives patients easy access to a primary care physician so that they need not visit a costly emergency room when they get sick.
- With the huge influx of newly insured patients in the backdrop of ACA, doctors’ offices find it difficult to give appointment to all patients quickly and it adds to the documentation challenges (delay, accidental errors) as well. Electronic visits comprising electronic document exchanges and videoconferencing between physicians and patients really relieves physicians’ offices from the strain associated with patients’ office visits.
- E-visits also enhance the communication between patients and doctors. Patients can discuss their symptoms (in some cases for example, wounds, skin allergies) and concerns conveniently from their own homes and the physician can make a diagnosis, provide treatment instructions, and formulate a specific treatment protocol.
Electronic documentation or the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) is more effective in the case of e-Visits rather than paper charting. Physicians can interact with their patients through video conferencing in one window and enter the details into or retrieve them from the electronic records via another window. This will help physicians to diagnose and provide treatment very quickly. They can enter the data through keyboards/mouse/touch screens (for data that include diagnosis, patient history and findings), camera (for video signal transfer), speech recognition systems, and transcription. With experienced and trained transcriptionists, more accurate data can be sent to the EMR compared to the speech recognition system.