Virtual Visits

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) supports enhanced-access physician-patient interactions, including virtual/electronic visits or “virtual visits” which occur over safe, secure, online communication systems. AAFP defines an virtual visit as an evaluation and management service provided by a physician or other qualified health professional to an established patient using a web-based or similar electronic-based communication network for a single patient encounter.

Guidelines

Guidelines for virtual visits:

  1. Available technology capabilities as well as an existing physician-patient relationship impact whether the standard of care can be achieved for a virtual visit, and clinical guidelines or protocols should be in place that identify whether a virtual visit for the chief complaint/presenting complaints and active diagnoses meet the standard of care;
  2. The patient initiates the process, and agrees to e-visit service terms, privacy policy, and charge for receiving a virtual visit from a physician or other qualified health professional;
  3. Electronic communication occurs over a HIPAA-compliant online connection;
  4. A virtual visit includes the total interchange of online inquiries and other communications associated with this single patient encounter;
  5. The physician appropriately documents the e-visits, including all pertinent communication related to the encounter, in the patient’s medical/health record;
  6. The physician or other qualified health professional has a defined period of time within which responses to an e-visit request are completed;
  7. The treating physician or provider within a virtual visit should forward a summary of the visit to the patient’s primary care physician or medical home, and communicate with the primary care physician as necessary; and
  8. Virtual visits should be a payable physician service.

(2008) (December 2017 BOD)