What Will Happen To In House Visits to Doctors’ Offices?

By Annie Keller

Published May 28, 2020

Regular visits to doctors' offices may be on the decline. One poll estimated that visits to primary care physicians have gone down 50% since the start of the coronavirus epidemic. Urgent care facilities have declined at the same rate, leading some to wonder - is the in-person doctor's visit going to come to an end?

Part of the decline is related to telemedicine. Quarantine has led many people to conduct virtual doctor visits . While there isn't an estimate of how many people will continue to do so once the epidemic subsides, no doubt some of them will find it easier and more convenient. Since there's no waiting in an office and more prompt response, the appeal is understandable.

But telemedicine isn't going to replace everything. Certain tests like imaging studies (CT Scans OR MRIs) still have to be done in person, and a suspicious mass or lump has to be felt before options can be given.  One center that is reopening estimated that 25% percent of their visits will actually be in person. Another noted that older patients , who are less likely to have email or internet access and are still less likely to have videoconferencing equipment, still tend to want to come in. There is also a preference to see expecting mothers in person, as ultrasound and other physical tests that are part of a perinatal exam can only be done in person.  Some illnesses can only be correctly diagnosed in person.

It's entirely possible that patients will start going right back to in-person visits as soon as it is possible. And as noted above, the technology to replace some aspects of in-person visits isn't there yet. However, the technology to make some office visits obsolete is there, and doctors would be well advised to prepare for lasting changes in the way patients visit their doctors.