e-Visits Linked to Accurate Diagnoses, Overprescribing of Antibiotics


The University of Pittsburgh releases a study comparing the outcomes of online doctors visits with traditional office visits. The findings raise both hope and concern over the potential future of standardizing e-visits.

The study reviewed more than 8,000 patient visits at four primary care practices that provide both office visits and e-visits for patients. The e-visits consisted of no teleconference sessions between patient and doctor, but rather relied on a patient questionnaire that the physician reviews and later responds to with questions, instructions and prescriptions.

The conclusion revealed that there was no discernable difference in outcomes for the patients in either group, citing equivalencies between needed follow up care across the two groups as as a benchmark of equivalent quality.

An item of concern stemming from the study was that physicians appeared much more likely to prescribe an antibiotic following an e-visit than following an office visit.

“When physicians cannot directly examine the patient, they may be more likely to take a ‘conservative’ route and order antibiotics,” -  Ateev Mehrotra, MD Associate Professor at University of Pittsburgh.

Physicians were also significantly less likely to order diagnostic tests during e-visits. For UTI visits across both groups, doctors ordered a urinalysis or urine culture 51 percent of the time for office visits compared to just eight percent of the time through e-visits.

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