In a world where smartphones/tablets and other forms of information technology have revolutionized how we interact, it makes sense that industries which rely on communication are jumping on the global connectivity bandwagon. This IT revolution is how we arrive at the topic for this post: E-Visits. E-visits in the healthcare industry can be defined as:
“Medical consultations between a licensed healthcare provider and an eligible patient, which can occur over several communication mediums, for common, non-emergency ailments or for long term management of health conditions.”
E-Visits will eventually be adopted globally. Before they are accepted by all, there are some kinks which need to be ironed out. As an Engineer I like to do my due-diligence and gather knowledge before I come to a conclusion on topics such as these. In order for you to understand the reasoning for my conclusions I have compiled a Pro vs. Con list.
Pro – Clearly one of the most obvious benefits of E-Visits is the increased access to healthcare for those who previously could not afford basic healthcare or those who simply could not receive care at all based on their location.
Con – Privacy is an important topic when it comes to E-Health. One of the first issues that comes to mind when considering a doctor answering emails or text messages from patients is how privacy will be maintained.
Con – Most doctors will likely not be interested in providing E-Visits when they realize how much time, effort, and money will be involved in setting up their office and hardware to perform at a government regulated standard. It seems that an initial start-up cost of around 2 million dollars (split between several physicians of course) is the standard.
Pro – E-Visits will effectively reduce wait times at hospitals and clinics. E-Visits will also provide an alternative to visiting physicians in person for patients who are simply hoping to ask a question regarding their health or to verify test results. These non-emergency concerns in no way require the patient to take up more than a couple minutes of their physician’s time.
Con – Billing is the single greatest obstacle to global adoption of E-Visits. This is obviously a concern when you consider how simple it is to send an email, write a text message or to write a prescription and send it to a patient. Governments and private insurance agencies are hesitant to allow E-Visits when they consider how difficult it will be to verify a standard of practice is being met. This having been said, given the large initial costs to set up an E-Visit system these simple consultations are paid out at relatively high rate, $25-50.
Pro – If access to healthcare becomes as easy as sending an email to ask a question or to receive a physician’s opinion, we will hopefully achieve a healthier and more knowledgeable population.
Con – If access is as easy as sending a text message there is a great chance it could be abused by the public and result in another form of healthcare which has a poor turnaround time.
Pro – E-Visits are cost effective. For countries where healthcare is publicly funded through taxes, reducing the national annual cost through E-Visit substitution for more formal doctor/patient interaction means we can then focus on moving that funding to another area of need. This of course also links back to accessibility, as the portion of the population without healthcare may now be able to justify getting the help they need.
Con – The potential for Medical Malpractice is a serious barrier which is preventing healthcare providers from accepting this form of consultation. These concerns mainly involve the management of Protected Health Information, violating specific licensure Laws within the province/state and general malpractice risks specific to visits which are not in person (arguably there are many grey areas).
Pro – Another great reason to adopt E-Visits is the ability for healthcare providers to monitor patients who are suffering from long term ailments. Providers can update treatments based on trends in the patient’s long term health data records. It is also great opportunity for cancer patients to meet with their physicians more frequently to discuss treatment.
Con – E-Visits are currently for a limited range of non-emergency ailments.
Pro – Treatment can easily be available 24/7 or at least available after normal work hours.
Pro – The overall convenience of being able to communicate with a doctor from your home has to be one of the most attractive characteristics of E-Visits. When flu season hits or outbreaks of serious diseases/viruses are of concern, the option to stay home yet still receive the necessary prescription or advice is a major benefit!
There are more advantages/disadvantages to this technology but without going into too much detail I think the above is enough to conclude that E-Visits should not be feared, but accepted. The convenience, accessibility and possibility of decreasing our annual cost for healthcare alone, are enough to convince me of its value. As long as regulations and policies are in place to ensure data integrity and security are maintained no one should be concerned about privacy issues. Ultimately though, until the baby boomer generation becomes comfortable enough with technology (since they will make up the majority of doctor visits in the coming years) we may still be waiting a long time for E-Visits to truly be adopted globally.
About the Author
Spencer Johnstone holds a B.Eng in Software Engineering from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. He has been with Aversan Inc. for almost a year and a half and has worked in the E-Health department on Requirements Verification Testing, Cross Application & Integration Testing, and more recently has transitioned to a Defect Management role. When not in the office, Spencer can likely be found trying to squeeze in a quick 18 holes before the sun sets or snapping pictures with his DSLR.
Connecting with Patients Online: E-Visits
Deloitte: eVisits: The 21st Century Housecall
Disclaimer: Any views or opinions presented in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Aversan Inc.