Virtual consultations in healthcare have become more common than ever, thanks in part to changes in telehealth reimbursement regulations during the pandemic and the public’s growing familiarity with the tools.
While virtual consultations existed long before the pandemic, they’re fast becoming a preferred method for the first point of contact between patients and providers. The difference: technology that makes the connection better, faster, and easier.
The ability for physicians to engage with patients via two-way high-definition (HD) videoconferencing paves the way for more types of virtual visits than ever before. Patients can now access a new range of treatment possibilities, from any location, by using a smartphone, tablet, or PC. When video isn’t possible, virtual consultations can happen over a landline phone, too.
What to Expect During a Virtual Consultation in Healthcare
When it comes down to what actually happens in a consultation, a virtual consultation isn’t very different from an in-person consultation. In both, a provider with access to a patient’s medical records and history interviews the patient, assesses their condition, and gives advice.
The biggest difference aside from location, of course, is the technology.
During a virtual consultation, the provider connects with the patient by using a secure teleconferencing platform designed for healthcare use. A two-way patient/physician conversation takes place, much like when the patient is sitting on an exam table in the physician’s clinic. If the physician needs to take a closer look at the patient, he or she can direct the patient in how to position the web camera.
If the provider needs an outside opinion during the consultation, robust virtual care platforms can facilitate an easy connection with a third party.
Advantages of Virtual Consultations
Most types of consultations can be offered virtually through a telemedicine platform. While some visits require a physical examination, many do not. Both providers and patients are seeing the advantages provided by virtual care models, such as:
- No transportation time or costs
- Options for care on-demand
- Access to more specialists
- Less exposure to illness
- No time spent in a waiting room
- Better control of chronic illnesses
- Access to more mental health resources
- Greater comfort for patient in a familiar (home) environment
- Ability for provider to view patient’s home environment for a more well-rounded assessment
Virtual consultation is not the only component of a successful virtual-first healthcare program. While patients are often introduced to telemedicine by experiencing their first consultation visit, they can also benefit from a host of complementary virtual care services.
Complete Virtual Care
Virtual consultations are only one component of an effective virtual healthcare program. As healthcare organizations advance to a virtual-first healthcare model, they develop a full range of interconnected services.
Some types of virtual care available now include remote patient monitoring via connected devices, nutrition programs, mental and behavioral health options, and pharmaceutical management. Most organizations build patient portals that allow patients to communicate with providers by asking questions, requesting medication refills, and scheduling appointments – all virtually.
As the virtual environment becomes more connected, it also benefits the entire healthcare team by allowing them to communicate more effectively. Exam notes, history, test results, and other healthcare data can be readily shared with specialists, saving time, and enhancing patient care outcomes.
The Future of Virtual Healthcare Consultations
Virtual consultations in healthcare are a permanent part of the medical landscape, a viable way of seeking healthcare – whether primary care, a specialist, or a mental health practitioner.
Patients are now more familiar with virtual consultations – and expect them. McKinsey reports that up to 40% of consumers have used telehealth services, and will continue to. Research also showed a broader interest in virtual health solutions, such as a virtual-first health plan.
The popularity and advantages of virtual consultations are only the beginning of a much wider virtual care trend, one that will continue to be an important healthcare resource for promoting patient health outcomes.
Bluestream Health is seeking to partner with more healthcare organizations who want to improve patient access to care by advancing personalized yet scalable virtual healthcare. Get in touch with us today for a custom demo.