I just came across this interesting article about [url=http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2010/04/26/acne_patients_fare_well_in_virtual_office_visits/]replacing actual office visits with virtual office visits for acne patients' follow-up appointments[/url]. There were several aspects of this article that stuck out to me.
How will this affect dermatologists' jobs long term? My brother knows an x-ray technician who works entirely from home, and she says that her job is in danger because these x-rays can just as easily be sent to India, where people charge much less. Personally I wouldn't want my medical advice to come from a foreign country, no matter how well-educated the respondent, but we've seen the same thing happen in many other fields, so why not the medical field? Virtual visits take away the need of a face-to-face consultation, meaning that it's no longer necessary for your doctor to live in the same city as you, let alone the same state or country.
It also mentioned that this saved time for the patients, but took about the same amount of time for the doctors. In this case, I'm not sure how it's more convenient for the doctors (the article started with how this was a way to get quicker appointments since dermatologists are so busy), but beyond that, I wonder how the perception is different for the patient. In our culture, we expect things online to be free or, at the very least, cheaper. Are virtual patients going to expect a lower price than if they went into the doctor's office, even though the doctor does just as much work and the convience is entirely on the side of the patient?
I also wonder how the results would differ with a different sample group.
I can definitely see the advantages of virtual appointments. It does sound more convenient (who wants to take off work or school to go to the doctor when you can pick your own time and never leave home). I'm just curious as to the long-term effects of moving more into the virtual realm--for dermatology as well as other medical fields. What do you guys think?