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Study: Virtual Visits to Doctor Are OK With Americans

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With new and substantial upgrades in technology and communication, U.S. health care consumers are generally OK with virtual doctor appointments.

That's a pretty big deal given the expected shortage of qualified doctors once health care reform is rolled out fully in 2014 and reaching out to a physician by either phone, email or video could become more common.

On the professional side, evidence is mounting that a virtual doctor's appointment can be just as effective as being there in flesh and blood.

According to a Jan. 14 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine, patients seeking treatment for afflictions such as sinus infections and bladder problems were given a proper and accurate diagnosis by physicians online after patient descriptions and updates to their online medical profiles.

A study out Thursday shows that 74% of Americans are "open" to such virtual doctor visits. The study, the Cisco Customer Experience Report, surveyed 1,547 consumers and health care professionals across 10 countries to find that 75% of consumers say they "are comfortable with the idea of communicating with doctors using technology instead of seeing them in person."

In addition:
  • Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) says that in China, Russia and Mexico, approximately 75% of consumers "would be comfortable communicating with a specialist using virtual technology (e.g. video chatting, text messaging) for a health condition."
  • Another 60% of consumers from Germany, Japan and the U.S. say they are open to being treated by a health care specialist using virtual technology.
  • By and large, Cisco adds, health care consumers "will give up anything, including cost, convenience and travel, to be treated at a perceived leading health care provider to gain access to trusted care and expertise."
  • Another 25% say they would like health care "reminders" to be made available to them over emails and texts.

Also, about 50% of health consumers worldwide are amenable to sharing personal health information across social media channels, with about 65% of health care professionals in agreement. Yet only 60% of Americans believe data protection is "adequate" across digital channels.

That isn't stopping technology companies and health care professionals from bringing more digital health care options to the table (or smartphone).

"Due to the increasing convergence of the digital and physical, there is an opportunity to provide increased collaboration and information sharing among providers to improve the care experience and operate more efficiently," says Kathy English, of public sector and healthcare marketing at Cisco.

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