Telemedicine and Virtual Care: A Post-Pandemic Reality?

Article | 01/12/2022

The impact of technology on healthcare has created new layers of virtual care that patients and providers need to navigate. It’s understandable how these services can be confusing. Patients and physicians should be knowledgeable about these phrases and how to use these digital technologies to their benefit.

The question is: Will telemedicine and virtual care replace clinical visits? Let’s look at the difference between the two terms and how they are creating a paradigm shift in the industry.

Telemedicine is an umbrella term for healthcare delivered remotely through audio calls, chat messages, or real-time video. This includes diagnosis or treatments administered by nurses, doctors, technicians, or other medical professionals employed by different hospitals and clinics across the country. Telemedicine is less expensive to deliver than in-person care and more convenient for patients who have trouble finding transportation to see a doctor or specialist. The use of telemedicine providers can also save patients from trips to emergency rooms and medical clinics for routine care such as check-ups and prescriptions.

Virtual care is the next step up from telemedicine. It’s essentially telemedicine delivered by a doctor or other medical professional working from their own office. Although some virtual care providers may offer their services online, most prefer to meet with patients in person at an office near the patient. Virtual care encompasses every interaction between a healthcare practitioner and their patient “virtual visits.” Remote patient monitoring through wearables or following up after a surgery or an examination are also forms of virtual care.

Virtual care may be the best choice for patients who need help with an acute illness or routine medical needs that don’t require a visit to the doctor’s office. It also provides remote monitoring of chronic diseases by connecting patients with their providers using videoconferencing software like Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and other modern healthcare technologies, considering their physical needs.

Since the pandemic started, telemedicine and virtual care usage began to skyrocket. Healthcare practitioners swiftly shifted to video calls and virtual diagnosis, and media noted that telemedicine “promises to be transformational” as the trend grew. However, even with the significant developments of virtual care, certain types of medical treatment can only be given face-to-face. Some patients also feel more comfortable interacting with their doctor in person. Lastly, diagnosis in person still proves to be more accurate.

To conclude, it is safe to say that telemedicine and virtual care have benefited the health sector tremendously. They have made the process easier for doctors and patients, especially those in rural regions, who are generally medically underserved. But, the value of face-to-face clinical visits proves that it cannot be replaced. Even though medicine won’t be moving to the metaverse any time soon, we now have a better understanding of Virtual care ‘s changing role as we adjust to the new normal.