Facts About Virtual Care

The use of virtual health care rose dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic; with many flocking to telehealth for its safety, convenience, and affordability. Telehealth use among patients soared from 11% in 2019 to 46% in May 2020, one McKinsey & Company study found.

These resources remain available nationwide, even as vaccination rates climb and pandemic-related restrictions lift. As a relatively new model of care takes shape in the United States, so do common misconceptions about virtual care.

UPMC offers several convenient ways to get care virtually. Here are a few myth-busting facts about virtual care to help you make more informed decisions about your health.

Myth: Virtual care is lower quality.

Fact: A 2020 telehealth impact survey involving more than 1,000 health care groups, firms, and nonprofits found that 60% of respondents believed telehealth improved the health of their patients. Another 68% reported they planned to increase virtual options within their practices.

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The major challenges of virtual care, respondents said, were patient barriers to technology and internet access.

According to a 2015 American Hospital Association study, telemedicine services employed by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) post-cardiac arrest care program led to a 51% decrease in hospital admissions for heart failure and a 44% decrease in readmission for other illnesses.

Thanks to the convenience of telehealth, patients may be more likely to schedule after-care appointments with their doctor.

Telehealth expands care to more vulnerable populations and people with disabilities without sacrificing quality. Those vulnerable populations — including people of color, people without stable housing, and patients with vision and/or hearing impairments — are given the option of speaking to a provider without traveling.

This broader access not only leads to better health outcomes for the wider community, it also allows working parents and busy professionals to access care from the comfort of home.

Virtual care costs are sometimes lower than in-person visits, too. Not only are patients saving on commuting costs, parking, childcare, and late fees, but providers may at times charge less for virtual visits.

Myth: Virtual care will end when the pandemic ends.

Fact: While virtual care was largely born out of necessity during COVID-19, recent studies suggest patients would like to see it expanded in the coming years.

A July 2021 McKinsey consumer survey found that 40% of consumer respondents said they will continue to use telehealth beyond the pandemic. Many patients see telehealth as an important part of their care, including mental health services.

Misinformation about technology security, in particular, is shifting as Americans become more comfortable with modern treatment. Remember, telemedicine appointments are subject to the same privacy protections as in-person doctor’s visits, and, at UPMC, your information is secured through state-of-the-art video equipment and your UPMC patient portal.

Myth: Physical exams are necessary for every diagnosis and prescription.

Fact: While some conditions may require hands-on care with a specialist, many providers can diagnose illness based on your symptoms, medical history, and needs.

From rashes to sinus infections, doctors are authorized to write prescriptions and give advice virtually just as they would in a clinic.

Myth: Only minor conditions are treated virtually.

Fact: Many of our primary care providers and specialists offer video visit appointments through our patient portals. All you need is a smartphone or tablet, the MyUPMC or the UPMC Central Pa. Portal app, and a scheduled video visit appointment with your UPMC provider.

UPMC Telemedicine also offers patients the opportunity to reduce in-person visits for chronic pain, 24-hour critical care, children’s health, hormone-related disease, heart and lung health, mental health, and even stroke care. Telestroke Services, for example, provides 24/7 assessments and treatments for acute stroke patients.

Among the conditions that can be treated virtually at UPMC are colds, urinary tract infections, and skin conditions. People who need help to lose weight, quit smoking, or sleep better can find support through video appointments, too.

For more information about UPMC’s world-class telemedicine services, visit www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/telemedicine-services. Additional information about UPMC Video Visits can be found here.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.