What is an online hospital?

In a few years, idea of receiving medical treatment exclusively at a doctor’s office or hospital will seem quaint. Harvard Business Review stated this in 2015. Fast forward six years, today, online hospitals or also known as virtual care like doctoroncall is becoming more well-known and widely used by hospitals all around the world. With over 75% of the world population using smartphones and tablets, virtual care has been made readily available and easily accessible to all walks of life.

Online hospitals simply mean consulting a doctor in the comfort of your own home with your own gadgets. Thanks to technology, doctors can now diagnose, treat and follow up patients’ care virtually. All you need is a computer or a smartphone and an internet connection to complete a virtual care visit. Patients can log on to the respective hospital websites and find doctors as per their specialties and book an online appointment at a convenient date and time. A video consultation link will be given on the appointment date.

One of the main benefits of virtual care is that a patient can get convenient healthcare from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. This means a patient does not need to take leave from work or arrange childcare just to consult a doctor. Cisco Global survey states that 74% of patients prefer easy access to healthcare facilities over in-person interactions with doctors. In today’s healthcare world, convenience is crucial. Patients who live in remote locations who do not have access to local clinics or those who are homebound can benefit from this. Virtual care has become more essential during this COVID-19 pandemic where fears of spreading and contracting the virus during in-person medical visits have led to a great boost to virtual care.

In addition to that, virtual care is also cost efficient. It is a cheaper alternative to walk-in appointments. You get to save so much time and transportation expenses instead of commuting to the clinic and sitting in the waiting room for hours just to consult the doctor. This is a huge plus point especially if you have a chronic condition that requires frequent visits. Virtual care allows follow-up visits for chronic patients with a shorter time frame than an in-office visit. This in turn will help to reinforce treatment adherence and maintain patients’ health in the long run.

Like any other technology, virtual care has its own pros and cons. While most in the medical field look at virtual care as a way forward and as a means to reduce healthcare costs and improve overall patient outcomes, many still are questioning the efficiency and the accuracy of diagnosing patients virtually.

The main drawback of virtual care is the limitation of performing physical examination. This could lead to possible misdiagnosis and patient mismanagement. Not all conditions can be diagnosed online, some conditions still require physical assessment. Furthermore, virtual care lacks the “personal touch” or “person-to-person relationship”. It is a great alternative, but it is not the same as a brick-and-mortar doctor office. It is deemed to be “impersonal” and most likely to be not as thorough as in-person visits. Another big concern with virtual care is privacy and security of medical data. Cybercriminals can hack and steal personal healthcare information. Breach of the system would lead to a major downfall of virtual care.

As a new diagnostic and therapeutic modality, the demand for virtual care is rapidly growing. It may still be medicine at a distance in the world, but it has changed from a technological augmentation of medical care to a novel system of health care. This integration of technology with the medical system is an approach that will redefine future medical care.

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