Study: Asynchronous Virtual Follow Up Is Successful for Chronically Ill

May 9, 2014 in News

Health care providers who set up asynchronous virtual follow-up visits with patients who had chronic illnesses significantly reduced the time they spent with those patients, according to a study published in Telemedicine and e-Health, FierceHealthIT reports (Terry, FierceHealthIT, 5/7).

Details of Study

For the study, researchers created a Web-based questionnaire that patients completed after an initial in-person visit. The questionnaire would then be reviewed by a health care provider to determine appropriate follow-up care (Dixon/Rao, Telemedicine and e-Health, July 2014). The questionnaire was developed using:

  • Evidence-based guidelines; and
  • Standard medical practices.

It focused on 10 chronic illnesses:

  • Anxiety;
  • Asthma;
  • Back pain;
  • Depression;
  • Diabetes;
  • Gastroesophegeal reflex disease;
  • Headaches;
  • Hypertension;
  • Obesity; and
  • Osteoarthritis.

The study involved nine physicians and one nurse practitioner from a Massachusetts General Hospital ambulatory center participated in the study, along with 175 adult patients. Providers set aside time in their schedules to review patients’ answers and delivered follow-up recommendations within one business day. Providers’ instructions could advise patients to:

  • Continue current treatment;
  • Schedule a follow-up phone call or video call; or
  • Set up an in-person appointment.


The report found that patients took about eight minutes to complete the survey, while providers spent nearly four minutes examining patient responses and issuing recommendations.

Follow-up questionnaires showed that both patients and providers were satisfied with the system.

The authors said the findings suggest “that once patients and physicians are given the opportunity to use an alternative system of care, the experience can be a satisfying one.” They added, “Making these systems adapt to the office workflow is very important to clinician satisfaction” (FierceHealthIT, 5/7).

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