No surprises in the growth of online health services. And while telemedicine and various forms of virtual visits abound, researchers are still gauging the impact on quality and costs.
Even as virtual visits multiply, researchers say it is not clear whether they really save money or provide better outcomes..
Virtual urgent care visits are undoubtedly less expensive than trips to the emergency room, said Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School, who has studied telemedicine. “But I think it’s very plausible, and probably likely, that a lot of people who do a virtual visit would otherwise have stayed home,” Dr. Mehrotra said, pointing to research that suggests most people do not end up seeking care when they feel sick. “So it could increase health care spending over all.”
In May 2014, he spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health during a hearing on Telehealth to Digital Medicine: How 21st Century Technology Can Benefit Patients on May 1, 2014.