Online healthcare consultations and so-called online doctors have been creating headlines in the media for a while now and evoking strong emotions in many directions. But to understand what this new form of consultation actually means and what value it can create, facts, experiences and knowledge are essential. Therefore, it is particularly gratifying to be a part of the research report Online Consultations with doctors (in Swedish) by Felicia Gabrielsson-Järhult, Kristina Areskoug-Josefsson and Peter Kammerlind from the Jönköping Academy for Improvement of Health and Welfare. The study was conducted on behalf of Sweden’s municipalities and county councils (SKL).
The research is based on a quantitative part, with 10,400 participants from the Jönköping County who have been in contact with doctors online, via private players Min Doktor and Kry, or the County’s public healthcare provider Bra liv nära (using Visiba Care’s platform for online consultations), and a qualitative part, with in-depth interviews with 26 people.
What were the main conclusions from the study? For the eager, we highly recommend reading the full report (in Swedish), but here is a brief summary:
Who is seeking online consultations?
When it comes to primary care, it is primarily young people who seek healthcare online. Around 70% of patients are under 30 years of age. Many of them are under the age of 12 – a large number of care seekers are parents who seek help for sick children.
What is the reason for choosing an online consultation?
The main reason patients choose to contact primary care online is to have access to fast and effective care. It gives them the freedom to choose the time and place, which simplifies their life. An example raised in the study is a single mother with three children who has a hard time waiting for healthcare and adapting to specific telephone times “because we’re living a stressful life in a stressful society“, hence it is very helpful to be able to log in online and ask questions. Another motive for contacting healthcare online is to be able to contribute to sustainability and to maintain our own resources as well as healthcare’s resources.
What do patients think of online healthcare services?
Patients are proving to be very positive about meeting healthcare online and believe that doctors have responded to them effectively and professionally. The majority would recommend online healthcare services to others.
Can an online health meeting really replace a physical visit?
A particularly interesting result, given the intense debates of the past year, is the answer to whether patients have been in contact with healthcare in other ways before or after the online consultation. The study shows that in 90% of cases, an online consultation was enough to help the patient, who only in a few cases needed to be referred to a physical meeting. In this spirit, the frequently expressed concern that online consultations are an unnecessary step that still often requires a physical visit, remains unjustified. Therefore, we should be able to rely on patients – the vast majority have good control and capability to decide when an online consultation is suitable or not.
What issues are online consultations suitable for?
There is a wide range of diagnoses that have been managed online, the ten most common accounting for 20% of all diagnoses. For the most part, these are less serious issues, but it is still something that patients need to be treated for. Therefore, it is of great benefit that they can get help in an efficient and smooth way, without having to go to a physical primary care centre – without having to travel, risk long waiting times or contagion.
- In primary care, it is mainly young people who seek online consultations
- Rapid and effective care is the main reason patients choose online consultations
- Patients are positive about the treatment they receive in online consultations
- In 90% of cases, the issue could be resolved directly in the online consultation
- The majority of the issues treated online in primary care are of a less serious nature
The study clearly demonstrates that online consultations create value for both patients and healthcare professionals. This is a point many of our customers can attest to. Read more about how some of our clients got started with their virtual clinics.
If you want to hear more about how digital healthcare meetings can create value for your business, you are welcome to contact us!