July 23, 2015 — Blog Post
Designing Better Virtual Office Visits
A recent study conducted by TechnologyAdvice, revealed that a large majority of patients are not comfortable or trusting of diagnoses made during virtual doctor visits. Out of 504 respondents, 56 percent of patients said they would be “uncomfortable” visiting with their doctor over a video visit, and 75 percent concluded they would not trust their doctor’s diagnoses compared to one given during an office visit.
This research comes at an interesting time – a growing number of companies like Teladoc have raised over $150 million in a recent round of funding, as well as companies like MDLive and Doctor on Demand which each scored $50 million to scale their offering of virtual doctor visits.
Despite this study’s findings, health insurers and healthcare providers are optimistic and confident that an industry-wide adoption of virtual visits could reduce costs, increase convenience, and allow for more efficient patient visits anytime.
As these new companies bring their products to market, there are many important questions to be asked – will patients even be ready or excited to use these services? How can we as healthcare and technology professionals create digital experiences that mimic and build the same trust and authenticity as an in-office visit? What aspects of the in-office experience create authenticity and trust, and what challenges of the current in-office model could be solved with a digital solution?
Going Virtual: What It Is and What It Isn’t
There are potentially many ways in which a digital office visit will never feel exactly the same as an in-office visit. For example, you don’t see the familiar faces at the front desk and you might not have the same level of comfort in knowing you’re being examined by a true professional. But, rather than taking this multi-million dollar opportunity to re-invent the in-office experience, this radical shift in healthcare delivery can be a transformational opportunity for providers to design new solutions for many of the ways today’s in-office visits are flawed.
For example, patients often forget what they learn from their doctor, with no way to easily ask questions at a later time. By exploring this deficit further, and interviewing patients about the challenges they face when they don’t have easy access to their doctor, we can challenge the ways digital experiences can supplement or solve these communication pitfalls. We can build solutions to solve many of the issues that couldn’t have been addressed on a large scale before. Long wait times, accessibility issues for patients getting to the office, and ways to view live clips of your doctor’s recommendations for a later time are all new unprecedented capabilities to be explored.
Additionally, providers spend a great deal of time dealing with patients who often have minor issues that can be solved at a quick glance. Now that we’ve established that these visits cost less, how might this interactivity in care allow patients to take a more active role in their health? How might patients find it easier to manage and keep track of their conditions once their diagnoses are digitized?
These types of questions are essential when building these new virtual offerings, so that we can be sure we’re designing solutions that are intuitive, trustworthy, and will be readily adopted by the public.
Studies like these, while small, show that a gap between current patient demand and provider offerings is widening. While we have the money and resources to create cost-effective and efficient solutions, if patients aren’t comfortable or excited about these products then no lasting solution will have been found.
By harnessing the potential of digital tools and looking forward at the ways we can solve problems in new ways, we can better understand how patients can benefit from these digital tools. Moving forward, understanding human behaviors and motivations will be essential to designing virtual visit tools that will be well liked and utilized by the public. Studies like this one are important to replicate often and with many different demographics – the more we can understand why patients are uncomfortable with the digital experience, we can better harness its capabilities for shifting the way we think about in-office healthcare today.