Objective: Internet-based medical visits, or "structured e-Visits," allow patients to report symptoms and seek diagnosis and treatment from their doctor over a secure Web site, without calling or visiting the physician's office. While acceptability of e-Visits has been investigated, outcomes associated with e-Visits, that is, whether patients receiving diagnoses receive appropriate care or need to return to the doctor, remain unexplored.
Materials and methods: The first 156 e-Visit users from a large family medicine practice were surveyed regarding their experience with the e-Visit and e-Visit outcomes. In addition, medical records for patients making e-Visits were reviewed to examine need for follow-up care within 7 days.
Results: Interviews were completed with 121 patients (77.6% participation). The most common type of e-Visit was for "other" symptoms or concerns (37%), followed by sinus/cold symptoms (35%). Back pain, urinary symptoms, cough, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, and vaginal irritation were each less frequent (<10%). A majority, 61% completed e-Visits with their own physician. The majority of patients (57.0%) reported receipt of a diagnosis without need for follow-up beyond a prescription; 75% of patients thought the e-Visit was as good as or better than an in-person visit, and only 11.6% felt that their concerns or questions were incompletely addressed. In a review of medical records, 16.9% had a follow-up visit within 7 days, mostly for the same condition. Four of these were on the same day as the e-Visit, including one emergency department visit.
Conclusions: Outcomes for the e-Visit suggest that it is an appropriate and potentially cost-saving addition to in-person delivery of primary care.