Why primary care is finally going virtual

Giles Bruce

The shift to virtual care isn’t being enabled by technology or patient preference as much as the lack of primary care physicians, Politico reported Nov. 26.

For primary care these days, most patients can expect “routine visits with a rotating cast of nurses and physician assistants with increasingly spare and online checkups with doctors,” the news outlet reported. And Congress and the Biden administration are helping further this transition, in part to make up for the dearth of primary care specialists. Lawmakers, for instance, are seeking to make permanent rules that allow Medicare to pay for virtual appointments.

Digital health startups aim to fill the void as well with their own unique approaches, like Iora Health (which has since been bought by Amazon’s One Medical) using health coaches and Firefly Health trying to better match patients with virtual providers, according to the story.

Elisabeth Wilson, MD, chair of community and family medicine at Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth Health, told the news outlet virtual care is great for rural patients who won’t have to travel, remote chronic disease monitoring and talking over the side effects of a new medication, but pointed out what can be lost in the process. “There’s something to be said about that in-person interaction,” she said.