Virtual healthcare: Is it really that effective?
Updated: Jun 15
How today's world is adapting to healthcare needs across the globe
By Meagan Roback, RMT
What was once only an option with in-person interaction, healthcare, amongst many other services, is now conveniently available to almost every corner of the globe thanks to the ever so popular internet - creating an efficient and encrypted support network for ongoing health and wellness care. Virtual care, also known as telemedicine, telehealth, e-health, remote medicine, mobile health, etc., is a now very common and welcomed method of delivery of a wide variety of health care services. A growing number of studies are showing that those who have experienced virtual care report a positive and often enhanced therapeutic effect on the patient-practitioner relationship. The Canadian Medical Association has reported that many patients have chosen to "forego in-person visits with their physician — despite the fact they require ongoing care. Virtual care and telemedicine are new ways for patients — and their physicians — to continue working together to achieve the best health outcomes possible."
A growing selection of appointments, remote monitoring options, services, classes, and courses are now available using popular technologies such as computers, tablets, smartphones and other developing technologies. Virtual care can include everything from conducting appointments/classes/courses, demonstrating self care and/or exercise coaching, to offering prescriptions for lab tests or medical devices and/or recommendations for supplements, nutrition and remedies which the patient can follow-up with at a convenient location.
Generally speaking, virtual care can be delivered in one of three ways:
Synchronous (aka 'live interaction')—communication is in real time via technology
Asynchronous—when data, images, or messages are recorded and shared with the practitioner. In the case of virtual classes or courses, the live program is offered, often recorded and then made available to the patient/student to access at their convenience. This is especially convenient for tight schedules, families, students, and travellers.
Remote monitoring—when lab test results such as food sensitivity, blood, saliva (for hormone levels), hair analysis (for heavy metals), etc or scans such as MRI's, xrays, or a variety of other screens are sent to the health care provider for review, then discussed at a follow-up visit.
Advantages of virtual care
Convenient and comfortable - skip the commute, long lines, waiting times, schedule juggling, the cost of gas and/or child care and see your practitioner from the comfort of your own space by opting for virtual healthcare.
Bonus: Getting email or text reminders for your next appointment, class, course, etc., or when you're due for your next visit! You never need to forget about you ever again.
Assessment - Practitioners often have an advantage in this regard as they can see you in your home environment. As an example, Brian William Hasselfeld, M.D. from John Hopkin's Medicine has reported that "allergists may be able to identify clues in your surroundings that cause allergies. Neurologists and physical and occupational therapists can observe you and assess your ability to navigate and take care of yourself in your home." Telemedicine is also a good way to get mental health assessment and counselling.
Illness - Not feeling well? Not a problem, you can still continue with your care - especially convenient when it is needed the most. In the case of classes and courses, you can often follow-up with your online access portals when you are feeling better.
Support Networks - If you have family or loved ones that want to be part of your support network, then they can connect with your practitioner (with you permission of course) from wherever they are. In some cases, they can even join in on the call!
Those that can benefit from loved ones monitoring them at home to make sure they are eating, sleeping, and taking their supplements, remedies, and/or medicine on schedule is a great way to ensure quality of life is maintained.
Now let's talk about what is and is not suitable for virtual care.
What conditions are suitable for virtual care?
*Conditions/healthcare needs that are currently available via virtual care include, but are not limited to:
mental health issues;
many skin problems/infections;
menstrual irregularities & menopause
urinary and sinus infections
digestive problems (irritable bowel, bloating, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, etc.);
insomnia, sleep issues;
eye redness without pain or change in vision;
cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes);
pain management, post-operative and rehabilitative care (i.e. yoga, pilates, physiotherapy - even pelvic health can be effectively addressed with virtual care)
Fertility, pregnancy, birth preparation, prenatal/postpartum care
travel-related health care;
conditions monitored with home devices and/or lab tests; and
review of test results and specialist reports
Emergency conditions that require a physical examination are often quick in onset. These situations are NOT suitable for virtual care. These include:
shortness of breath;
loss of vision;
loss of hearing;
sudden weakness or numbness;
severe allergic reactions;
strong abdominal pain; and
trauma, muscle, bone and joint injuries
Although you may need to see a healthcare practitioner in person for your first appointment for
these types of emergencies, follow-up visits are often well suited to virtual care.
Healthcare that requires in-person appointments:
manual therapy (i.e. chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, acupuncture, dialysis);
some diagnostic scanning/testing (i.e. xrays, ultrasound, MRI)
custom medical device fittings
In the end, virtual care has revamped the way millions of people around the world are choosing to have their healthcare needs met more efficiently by qualified practitioners. If you feel your health care can benefit by virtual care, read below on the how to's to get started:
How to arrange a virtual visit:
1. Find a practitioner that is familiar with your healthcare need/concern
2. Book an appointment with the healthcare practitioner
3. Complete and submit any intake forms required
4. If not advised through your intake forms, inquire with the clinic/office on how to send any items related to your condition that will make your visit more efficient (i.e. reports, xrays, etc.)
How to prepare for a virtual visit:
1. Choose your device: a smartphone, tablet or computer
2. Use earphones/headphones for better privacy and improved sound
3. If necessary, download any software or app your practitioner uses for video visits. In many cases, no downloads are necessary, rather a secure link is sent directly to your email for easy access, often with the option to test your audio and video in advance.
4. Make sure the device is fully charged or plugged in
5. If possible, test your device with the clinic/software/etc. to ensure a smooth experience on the day of your virtual appointment
6. Remember to prepare your space (select a private option for added privacy) with a comfortable place to sit, adequate lighting, and eliminate as much surrounding noise as possible.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Use of the content provided on this blog post is at your sole discretion.