Here is another in our ongoing series of things going on around Rochester.

Rochester’s UR Well organization and University of Rochester medical students and faculty members have had a lot of success with their ongoing outreach to community members in need of affordable or cost-free healthcare. In mid-September, the partners provided health exams and the opportunity to develop long term healthcare plans to Rochesterians without health insurance, drawing in many participants from the surrounding community. While UR Well and similar community healthcare programs have experienced a lot of success in the past, burgeoning virtualized healthcare technologies are forcing many to wonder whether the need for these types of clinics will soon disappear altogether.

Planned Parenthood Pushes Ahead with Mobile Healthcare Initiative

Leading the way in the digital healthcare revolution is the often revered, often reviled family planning organization Planned Parenthood. The organization recently launched pilot programs in the state of Washington and Minnesota that have so far been successful in eliminating the need for physical healthcare visits altogether.

The program relies on a mobile video application. Using this app, Planned Parenthood doctors hold virtual appointments with their patients, assessing any needs or concerns they might have without ever having to see them in person. From there, birth control, from the pill to contraceptive rings, can be prescribed and sent to patients through the mail in unmarked packaging. Supporters of the plan say the pilot program saves money, saves time, and helps improve American women’s access to birth control.

Virtualized Healthcare is Convenient, Possibly Detrimental to Preventative Care

The benefits of virtualized healthcare are many: not having to keep a physical office saves healthcare providers money, providing savings they can potentially pass on to their patients; virtual calls potentially increase access to healthcare providers across the country; and since it eliminates the need for patients to travel to appointments, digital healthcare makes keeping healthy both a cheaper and more convenient endeavor. That’s why, since the first virtual office was pioneered in 1994, adoption has steadily climbed.

Still, even with these benefits, many inside the healthcare industry worry that removing the human element of healthcare altogether could be dangerous. One of the main advantages of programs like UR Well is that it puts patients in front of doctors, allowing more thorough examinations and preventative care. There’s no doubt that widespread adoption of similar virtual programs here in the Flower City will curb the need for clinics overall, but in order to remain one of the leading regions in the country for healthcare quality, it’s unlikely that Rochester would abandon physical clinics altogether. All this to say that while Planned Parenthood’s mobile healthcare initiative is, indeed, a sign of the times, it and similar programs won’t mark the end of traditional healthcare entirely, if and when they make their way to Rochester.

What do you think about virtual healthcare? Do you see any danger in taking the human element out of medicine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.