Why there’s nothing “Virtual” about “Video Consulting with a Doctor”

A little bugbear of mine is when “Video Consulting with a Doctor” is referred to as “Virtual Consulting”. This latest article from Harvard Business Review got me thinking about it again, but I’ve heard it referred to like this on many different occasions eg. here and here.

The reason this grates so much with me is because “Virtual” means that something “Exists in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name” or “Exists in the mind, eg. as a product of the imagination”.

The problem I have with the use of this term to describe a “video consult with an informed Doctor” is that it is in no way the same as “virtually seeing the doctor”. Consulting with a registered Health professional can never be associated with something that may “exist in the mind” or that “exists in essence” because of the set of rules and regulations that it’s subject to.

In just the same way we’d never say “I’ll virtually call you later” to a friend, neither do we virtually call a Doctor:

I made up the following picture to depict a consultation with a computer generated “Avatar of a Doctor”. I hope this makes the distinction clear: this is an image of what a “Virtual Consultation” would look like:

While we’re here let’s also make it clear: Whilst a video consult might not enable a Doctor to touch or examine a patient, one is not superior to the other, they are just different and there are several advantages to using this technology. For example:

> In an emergency situation where a patient has collapsed, the ability for your informed Doctor to be there instantly (using Mobile Video Calling technology) can add incredible value by saving time and ensuring any interventions are what’s best and can be delivered quickly with close supervision.

> To serve the rapidly emerging need amongst patients to get answers to questions they have while browsing online resources.

> Removal of the Time/Cost barriers that prevent patients presenting concerns to their Doctors earlier.

5 thoughts on “Why there’s nothing “Virtual” about “Video Consulting with a Doctor”

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