My USA Today column: Seeing a doctor online may not be what’s best

My USA Today column: Seeing a doctor online may not be whats bestThinking of seeing a new doctor online for your runny nose or cough?  It may be convenient for patients, and cheaper for health plans, but it may not be what’s best.  Online visits for acute illness increase the rate of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, and can miss important diagnoses.

I write about it in my latest USA Today column, The doctor will see you now — on the Internet:

Accurate diagnoses can be missed without the face-to-face interaction. For example, I’ve seen a patient convinced he had a sinus infection only to find that he had a tumor inside his nose. Another complained of minor ear pain, but after examining her, I saw that an infection had spread to the point she needed to be hospitalized for intravenous antibiotics.

Without the ability to examine patients, many doctors play it safe and prescribe drugs. A recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients who were treated through virtual visits had higher antibiotic prescription rates for their sinus infections than patients who were seen in the office.

Enjoy the piece.

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  • civisisus

    “….something is lost through these virtual connections.

    Accurate diagnoses can be missed without the face-to-face interaction. For example, I’ve seen a patient convinced he had a sinus infection only to find that he had a tumor inside his nose. Another complained of minor ear pain, but after examining her, I saw that an infection had spread to the point she needed to be hospitalized for intravenous antibiotics…”

    “in case after case after case”

    Quantify, Dr. Pho. Then we’ll let you know if we should be as concerned as you are.

    Based on what you’ve provided, we’ve really no idea WHAT has been “lost” – or if it’s been “lost” at all – through virtual connections.

  • OETKB

    Inspection, palpation, auscultation , percussion=PE. A virtual exam is not in the picture on what can be critical information.

  • http://twitter.com/FerkhamPasha Ferkham pasha

    Virtual is not always better

  • http://twitter.com/BenGreenMD Ben Green

    Strict guidelines for diagnosis and prescribing are essential to effective virtual medicine. But the point is it absolutely can be done effectively and safely. What’s worse?: a patient deferring an in-person visit because they can’t get in anywhere, or a patient getting a safe, virtual visit with a treatment plan and clear follow up instructions and warning signs if the condition does not improve.