Virtual vs. In-Person Care: A Doctor’s Opinion

March 27, 2023

Marta Canfield, MD

When it comes to getting your annual check-up, you might be used to sitting in the waiting room, changing into a paper gown and going over your health while testing your reflexes and checking your vitals. But it doesn’t always have to be that way!  

Dr. Canfield is a First Stop Health Virtual Primary Care doctor – but her focus hasn’t always been on virtual care. In fact, Dr. Canfield owned and operated her own in-person clinic for many years. We asked her a few questions about the value of talking to a doctor from home instead of at the clinic. 


What can virtual primary care visits cover? 

Almost anything! While we can’t physically assess our patients, you’d be surprised by how much physical exam information we can get from a video visit. Our doctors can prescribe most medications, care for ongoing health conditions, order labs and tests and give referrals for specialty care. 

Of course, doctors can’t perform procedures over phone or video. We also don’t prescribe controlled substances.  



What advantages does virtual care have over in-person care? 

What I like the most about virtual primary care is the time we have with you, the patient. Our visits last up to 30 minutes, which gives us enough time to take a detailed history and come up with a care plan. If we think you’ll need to be seen in-person, we can arrange the care you will need so you don’t have to worry about who to see! 

Virtual care allows for easier access so that you can get an opinion about what's going on and advice on how to treat something or if being seen in person is important. 



Is it okay that I’m not being assessed in person? 

Yes, in many instances it’s okay that you’re not being assessed. In fact, taking a medical history and interviewing the patient is the very first thing we learn in medical school. We're taught that if we take our time and ask the right questions and listen to the patient, they will tell us what the problem is, and the physical exam just backs up our diagnosis.  

In certain circumstances, an in-person examination is essential. But most of the time, what you need is for a doctor to hear your story and symptoms so that we can point you in the right direction. The physical exam is a way to back up what we gather from your history/interview. 



I like going to the doctor in-person. Can I use both virtual and in-person care? 

Absolutely! Using virtual care doesn't mean you have to give up your local primary doctor, but we can work together with them to get things done quicker and more efficientlyI think of it like a kitchen at a restaurant. You've got the head chef and the sous chefTypically, I just ask my patients what role I play. Am I their primary head chef or their backup sous chef”?  



What’s an example of my First Stop Health doctor helping me as a backup?  

Let’s say you do need to be seen in-person by a specialist. Our virtual primary care doctors can get the ball rolling by ordering testing such as blood work, imaging or referrals before you get seen by a specialist. Then the test results can be available for your first visit. Not only will you avoid an in-person visit to get all the testing orders in, but you also now have preliminary test results for the specialist to go over during your first visit with them. This can cut down on the number of in-person visits you will need. 

First Stop Health doctors also provide summaries after each visit that can be shared with your in-person primary care doctor or specialist, so that it’s easy to keep them up-to-date on what’s going on.  

Most importantly, you get your concern addressed in a timely manner instead of waiting for weeks or months for an appointment. When it comes to your health, we know that time is valuable. Virtual primary care can help you get what you need, when you need it.  





Get started with virtual primary care.

If your employer or school offers you First Stop Health Virtual Primary Care, our doctors are here to provide care you will love. During your first visit, your doctor will get to know your personal and family health history, ask questions, listen to your concerns, and make recommendations for your current and future health.    

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Originally published Mar 27, 2023 6:57:05 PM.