E-visits could lead to overprescribing

While patients who "see" their doctor via an e-visit aren't any more likely to need follow-up care than those who see their doctors in person, researchers have found that they are more likely to receive prescriptions for antibiotics without relevant testing, according to a study published online this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study's authors, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC, say their findings could be indicative of overprescribing during e-visitors.

For the study, data from January 2010 to May 2011 was examined for more than 5,100 visits for sinusitis patients and nearly 3,000 visits for urinary tract infections. Nine percent of the sinusitis visits and 3 percent of the UTI visits took place online. During those e-visits, patients took advantage of secure patient portals; doctors responded to their questions and concerns and prescribed drugs--on the portal, as well.

"When physicians cannot directly examine the patient, physicians may use a 'conservative' approach and order antibiotics," the authors said. According to an accompanying announcement, such a misuse of antibiotics is leading to an increase in drug-resistant germs.

A 2010 study published in the Archives of Dermatology reported parallel findings to the new study in that e-visits for acne care yielded similar results as in-person visits.

To learn more:
-  here's the study's abstract
- read this accompanying announcement

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