These days, there are so many ways to communicate with your doctor, from in-person visits to video checkups to instant messages. Having various access points to your medical professional is important because it makes healthcare more flexible—if you’re able to squeeze in a digital visit in between errands or meetings at work, why not? If you can get a quick answer to a question about medication via e-mail without waiting on hold, why wouldn’t you? We’re huge proponents of new healthcare technologies and “webside manner,” but we also believe that the occasional in-person visit is vital to good care, too.
Why? It all has to do with ensuring that you’re able to properly express yourself, and that you don’t misunderstand your doctor so that the right quality of care is achieved. Let’s go over some of the reasons why the occasional in-office visit is good for supplementing digital communications with your doctor.
You Won’t Feel Rushed
A 2010 evaluation of medical consultations via telephone and in-person visits found that there were no significant communication differences between the phone and face-to-face interactions of patients and doctors, but that in-person visits tended to cover a broader range of concerns. In fact, the study found that doctors on the phone were less likely to discover additional patient concerns than they were in face-to-face scenarios. Therefore, if you have a single question or concern, definitely go for the doctor chat or e-mail, but if you have a list of broad-spanning questions, a trip to the doc’s office might be in order.
You’ll Feel More Connected
For whatever reason, modern patients don’t feel that the phone or video chat is the place for small talk. Maybe it’s because, with so many simpler ways to stay connected, we tend to use these technologies for work and tasks more than socialization. It feels normal to rush through a phone call and meander through a face-to-face consultation. When you visit your doctor’s office in person once a year or so, you’ll feel like you can talk about things other than your physical well-being and fill your doctor in on things going on in your life. Not only does this improve the patient experience, it may also improve your health and quality of care, since certain lifestyle factors can contribute to certain health concerns.
You Might Get Better Care
Even though a good doctor will have on-demand access to your electronic health records no matter how you’re communicating, he or she might get a better picture of your health concerns in a certain context when you make it an in-person visit. What’s more, you simply can’t expect your doc to get the whole picture of a physical ailment without seeing it in person. Reserve any observable issues—such as a particularly concerning mole or a rash that seems to be spreading—for face-to-face visits, either in the office or via video chat. Of course, visual examination is critical for many diagnoses.
There’s Less Risk of Miscommunication
Miscommunication happens no matter the medium, and younger generations and those who are comfortable with technology may actually argue that they experience fewer miscommunications in written form compared with talking on the phone or in person. Still, because patients tend to feel less rushed or confined to a specific topic when they’re having an in-person exam, they may feel that they can take their time to express their concerns and ask questions. Seeing a patient’s expressions and body language and hearing their tone of voice can also help eliminate any miscommunication issues.
The Bottom Line
With more and more medical systems expanding the way that we communicate with healthcare professionals, it’s easy to think that sharing a physical environment with your doctor may soon be a thing of the past. Indeed, new technologies are extremely helpful in improving patient convenience and accessibility, but they can’t entirely replace face-to-face doctor’s visits, at least not yet. With that being said, as new technologies emerge and improve, video consultations may soon be just as good, but keeping one face-to-face interaction per year or so may be a good idea.