Websites that Offer Care Over the Internet: Is There an Access Quality Tradeoff?

Vol. 311 No. 13
April 2014
DeJong, C., Santa, J., and Dudley, R.A.

Although health care is one of the largest industries in the United States, 73% of US residents who are ill have difficulty obtaining nonemergency care on nights, weekends, and holidays. Commercial e-visit websites—companies without bricks-and-mortar clinics that use the Internet to connect patients to clinicians whom they never meet in person—may address the need for accessible, convenient care. This Viewpoint explores some of the potential benefits associated with e-visits, including flexible hours, a decrease in emergency room visits, and increased availability of doctors. However, e-visits may have unintended effects on use, diagnostic accuracy and continuity of care. E-visits address a market demand and are likely to become more common. As such, close attention is needed to ensure that access is not achieved at the expense of quality.

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