Study finds no difference in quality between telehealth, face-to-face communication

Web-based doctor-patient interactions showed no difference in quality when compared to face-to-face communication, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

With the expansion of telehealth, patients with non-emergency medical needs are choosing to remotely visit physicians. In this study, researchers evaluated each method of communication to see whether patients and physicians are satisfied with each method.The study simulated physician-patient consultations on pelvic organ prolapse with both a face-to-face visit and a screen-to-screen setting. Some 48 consultations were conducted by two medical interns and six simulated patients in four different scenarios.

Results showed no difference in quality between telehealthcommunications and face-to-face visits according to factors of patient-related outcomes, satisfaction, perceived information exchange, interpersonal relationship building and perceived shared decision making. Additionally, researchers noted a patients’ attitude to web-based communication and perceived time and attention correlated with their perceived interpersonal relationship building.

“In this study, the quality of doctor-patient communication, as indicated by information exchange, interpersonal relationship building, and shared decision making, did not differ significantly between Web-based and face-to-face consultations,” concluded first author Kiek Tates, PhD, and colleagues. “Doctors and simulated patients were equally satisfied with both types of consultation medium, and no differences were found in the manner in which participants perceived communicative behavior during these consultations. The findings suggest that worries about a negative impact of web-based video consultation on the quality of patient-provider consultations seem unwarranted as they offer the same interaction quality and satisfaction level as regular face-to-face consultations.”