"Thank you for reaching out today. Would you like to meet in person or via Zoom?"
It's a virtual world! The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated the technological boom into remote healthcare. However, with in-person activities coming back with full force, the question that looms is whether the virtual world is here to stay or set to go.
Perhaps the answer isn't binary! In other words, we should consider an option that would combine both in-person and remote elements to create a hybrid model. Indeed, the elements of a hybrid model would vary across specialties; however, the point to emphasize is that the hybrid model would be an elevated — and hopefully, better — way forward compared with in-person or remote-only.
The in-person experience allows us to develop a unique connection with others, whether it's with patients or colleagues. There is also generally a more organic and natural conversation that develops that would otherwise be deemed as awkward silences and fast-paced conversations over Zoom. For the most part, it's easier to establish trust and openly communicate collective objectives and expectations.
On the other hand, the virtual piece allows us to reach a wider audience and target a larger population (eg, reduce geographical barriers, allow individuals who are limited by mobility or personal/work schedules). It may certainly create better efficiency that would otherwise be difficult to achieve with an in-person experience only.
However, virtual environments also present barriers. For example, not all procedures and/or assessments are designed and advanced enough yet to be administered remotely. There may also be difficulties accessing the resources required (eg, stable Internet connection, tools to connect virtually such as a laptop). Moreover, digital literacy levels may present a challenge.
What strikes me the most is the lag that exists regarding digital integration in psychiatry. For example, I am currently part of a team running a clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of an antidepressant to treat cognitive impairment in long COVID syndrome. Our trial offers both in-person and virtual assessment options. Because cognitive function is our primary outcome, we needed to find a way to deliver cognitive assessments remotely. It was surprising to learn about the limited options available to administer cognitive testing through an online format, and accordingly, the limited number of validation papers around this topic.
In an age where technology has become pretty much a necessity to function on a day-to-day basis, it's shocking to learn about the lag of digital integration in psychiatry. We use our phones as alarm clocks, to communicate with friends and family, to learn about the world, and to go from destination A to destination B. Why is it, then, that we fall behind when it comes to offering effective virtual options for interested parties? Where is this lag occurring? Are there multiple checkpoints that need to be evaluated? If so, how can we move forward? Indeed, optimizing the patient and provider experience does not simply rest on technology itself but it may be an important step forward to significant growth.
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Any views expressed above are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of WebMD or Medscape.
Cite this: Leanna M.W. Lui. Technology in Medicine: A Revolution or a Lag? - Medscape - Apr 08, 2022.