Needing a quick prescription refill, I logged on to my first post-COVID telemedicine visit with my primary care physician this week—and while I appreciated being able to meet with my doctor from my living room, the experience revealed the kinks in the way many practices are delivering virtual care. To schedule, I filled out a form on the website, which triggered a follow-up call from practice staff the next morning.
Straightforward, but far from an “Open Table” level of simplicity. The technology worked just fine: a single click on an emailed link launched Microsoft Teams (which happened to already be installed on my laptop), and I was met by a medical assistant dialing in from an exam room in the practice. She took my information, said the doctor would be joining shortly, and left.
So I waited. And waited. The camera was on, and I was left looking at the blood pressure cuff, otoscope and ophthalmoscope hanging on the wall—literally the same view I would’ve had sitting on the exam table (I just needed to don a paper gown and turn the thermostat down ten degrees to completely replicate the experience of being there in person). I waited some more—22 minutes to be precise, as the webinar screen had a count-up clock recording just how long I was looking at the wall.
My doctor is a great clinician, and surely was running behind because she was spending time with a patient who needed her attention. Once she came into the room, the visit was efficient—and we talked about the challenges of transitioning to virtual care. I was happy to cut the practice some slack since I know them, but it would have been really underwhelming if I were a new patient—honestly, I probably wouldn’t be a repeat user. And it fell far short of what is needed to create a differentiated virtual care offering.
Like everything else “digital” in our lives, we want telemedicine to be easy, integrated, efficient and on time—and our expectations for experience are set outside of healthcare. One thing was made painfully obvious: providers need to make sure not to replicate the frustrating parts of traditional office visits, as they look to create a lasting, sustainable virtual care platform.