Studying the Process and Quality of Virtual Medical Care

The researchers examined the processes and quality of care provided by virtual physician websites for minor acute illnesses. They trained actors to present to doctors from the most frequently visited websites offering virtual care. The actors described symptoms for illnesses that the sites advertised they could treat and for which clear guidelines regarding appropriate treatment existed. The researchers described how care was provided–including measures of access, whether specific elements of history and physical exam were performed, and what testing or treatment was offered–and measured performance by evaluating physician adherence to established guidelines. The goals of this project were to understand the virtual care process, inform various stakeholders about monitoring and paying for virtual care, and identify ways to improve this model of care delivery.