In-person vs. Virtual care: What's the difference & Which is best

Kendra Bean
Kendra Bean30 Aug 2023
Reviewed and Fact Checked ✔️


  • Telehealth has gained significant traction, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, offering benefits such as accessibility, convenience, and cost-effectiveness. However, it faces challenges including quality of care, data privacy, and unequal access, particularly in rural areas with limited internet connectivity.
  • While telehealth is suitable for routine follow-ups, minor illnesses, and mental health consultations, in-person care remains crucial for more serious conditions, initial diagnoses, and procedures that require a physical examination or specialized tests.
  • Mira offers a healthcare plan that combines both virtual and in-person services, aiming to provide comprehensive care. For an average of $45 per month, subscribers can access various healthcare services, including virtual primary care, discounted prescriptions, and urgent care visits, making it an affordable option for those without traditional health insurance.

Note: we use the terms virtual care and telehealth interchangeably since they refer to the same thing. 

Telehealth vs. In-Person Care

Although telehealth services have been around since the 1950s, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a massive increase in telehealth use. Navigating telehealth services have proved to be a challenging task for some, but offers a number of benefits. In-person care, involving face-to-face interactions, has remained as the traditional method of receiving care and will certainly always be necessary for completing particular appointments. However, implementing high-quality virtual care holds the potential to work better for both patients and physicians alike. Consider the following table that breaks down the pros and cons of in-person versus telehealth care. 

 Virtual Care/ TelehealthIn-Person Care
AccessibilityEasy to access from anywhere, reducing geographic barriers.Physical presence allows for more thorough examination.
ConvenienceNo need to travel; can be done from the comfort of home.No technical issues; straightforward appointment setup.
Time-SavingOften shorter wait times and quicker service.No need to set up devices or troubleshoot technical issues.
AnonymityCan offer more privacy and anonymity for stigmatized issues.Direct interaction can sometimes lead to a stronger doctor-patient relationship.
ScopeEasier to consult specialists across long distances.Wide range of services and treatments, including surgeries and physical exams.
CostMay be less expensive due to lack of travel and time off work.Insurance is more likely to cover, and costs are well-established.
Quality of CareLimited to what can be diagnosed or treated remotely.Time-consuming; may require taking time off work and travel.
Technology BarriersRequires a good internet connection and a capable device.No technology barriers to entry.
CommunicationNuances of symptoms may be missed; harder to build a relationship.Easier to communicate and convey symptoms or concerns.
Physical ExaminationLimited ability for physical touch, important for some diagnoses.Physical exams are more thorough.
Emergency ServicesNot suitable for urgent or life-threatening conditions.Equipped to handle emergencies and offer immediate treatment.
Insurance and RegulationsCoverage may be limited; state or country regulations could be a barrier.Usually well-covered by insurance; established legal framework.
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Kendra Bean

Kendra Bean is from Maui, Hawaiʻi. She is currently enrolled at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, specializing in Epidemiology. She is passionate about improving health literacy and access to care, specifically in rural areas.

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