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Virtual medicine works better for some presenting complaints than others—and varies widely by provider—according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers looked at how eight provider companies performed in recognizing, ordering tests, and diagnosing treatment for six common conditions. Though the study was not designed with urgent care in mind, the presentations included reflect common reasons for urgent care visits.  Diagnostic accuracy was highest for recurrent female urinary tract infection (91%) and lowest for rhinosinusitis (71%), with ankle pain, low back pain, viral pharyngitis, and streptococcal pharyngitis falling in between. Overall compliance with relevant treatment guidelines was 54%. While there was no control group of patients presenting to brick-and-mortar physician offices for direct comparison, the antibiotic prescribing rate was similar to those reported in other studies, overall. The study did find videoconferencing and telephone care were more likely than webchats to result in appropriate care. As such, there appear to be no data supporting recent efforts to limit “telemedicine” to videoconferencing at the exclusion of phone care. Texas, for example, excludes phone (and webchat) “visits” from its definition of telemedicine.

Virtual Medicine Better for Some Complaints than Others—Depending on the Provider