Good medicine and video appointments
The same guidelines that apply to in-person appointments apply to video appointments. The physician must assess whether or not the information presented in the video appointment is sufficient.
Has sufficient information been provided during the appointment?
In the case of video appointments, the physicians themselves must assess whether the information presented by the patient is sufficient enough to be able to provide sound health care.
If the doctor thinks that the information from the patient is not sufficient, the doctor must obtain more information or ask the patient to come into the office for an appointment. The need for an adequate amount of information can also contribute to the consensus among PCPs that video appointments work best with patients they know already and to whose health records they have access, than with patients they’ve never met in person.
Weighing all considerations
What can be considered prudent in a given situation is often contingent on a patient's current state of health and which treatment options are available. Physicians are required to find the best possible treatment, but also consider that providing help quickly may be more or less important than being as thorough as possible in a given situation, as the alternative may be that the patient would not receive treatment at all.
Do video appointments promote overuse of health services, or can it counteract underuse?
The option to schedule an appointment with one’s doctor over video can lower a patient’s threshold for making an appointment. This raises the fear that such an option might encourage the overuse of health services by some patients. Concerned new parents of infants or those who have to google their symptoms to the point of creating unnecessary medical concerns are often pointed out as examples for those with potential to over-use.
On the other hand, there are some patient groups who tend toward underuse and who seek out health services too late. As Holly Ankjell from the Norwegian Cancer Society points out in the video below, men are on average less likely than women to make a doctor’s appointment when a health concern arises. They have found that this often leads to late cancer diagnoses. People experiencing early symptoms of mental illness face a similar problem. For these patient groups, it will be a great advantage both for patients, their relatives, and the community if the threshold for contacting one’s PCP is lowered.
It is difficult to quantify what will be the correct number of appointments to balance these considerations. When the patient contacts their PCP rather than a private video doctor, it will nevertheless contribute to the continuity of their relationship, which in itself is a good thing for later health issues and the patient's overall health.