The US and Canada have seen a huge increase in virtual doctor visits this year. Of the 600 million appointments with general practitioners, 75 million will be electronic visits (eVisits).
In-person visits with primary physicians cost $175 billion worldwide, according to a report by Deloitte. The number of eVisits this year could rise to 100 million, which would save more than $5 billion.
The rise in popularity of eVisits isn't surprising. It saves patients time and money, and allows both patient and physician to view appointments, prescriptions, test results and medical histories simultaneously. According to Deloitte, the majority of eVisits focus on obtaining patient information through forms, questionnaires and photos, rather than through direct communication with a physician.
"For example, patients with symptoms of certain illnesses such as sinusitis, strep throat, allergies, bladder infection or acne would complete an online form and then receive a diagnosis and, if required, a prescription," the report reads.
For now, it seems eVisits are only occurring in North America, with a continuous rise in patient use. However, online doctors appointments could have huge implications for the developing world. An Internet connection could mean visits with specialists that patients would otherwise not have access to, while ensuring care costs are kept at a minimum.