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Blood ; 138:342, 2021.
Article in English | EMBASE | ID: covidwho-1582389


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic prompted an expedited shift towards expanding telemedicine services. Historically, telemedicine has been shown to increase healthcare access for those in rural communities but widen care gaps for other vulnerable populations by exacerbating existing digital divides and clinician biases in offering telemedicine services. The purpose of this study is to understand the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of patients completing telephone, video, and in-person visits at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Hematology (BWH DOH) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This was a retrospective chart review of patients who completed clinical encounters within the BWH DOH between March 19, 2020, when the division switched to virtual visits, and December 31 st, 2020 (pandemic). Patients who completed visits between January 1, 2019 and March 18, 2020 (pre-pandemic) served as a comparator group. Differences in socio-demographic composition of patients completing telephone only (TO), video only (VO), or a mix of in-person and telemedicine visits (IPTM) were tested for significance using Kruskal-Wallis and Chi-square tests. Results: A total of 8307 pre-pandemic visits and 5910 pandemic visits were included in analysis. Almost all visits (99.8%) were in-person pre-pandemic compared to 32.4% in-person, 42.6% by telephone, and 25% by video during pandemic. Median age was significantly different between patients who had only pre-pandemic visits, only pandemic visits, and both (55 vs 52 vs 58 years;p=0.003). Otherwise, there was no significant difference in racial and median income distributions pre-pandemic to pandemic. Table 1 shows the socio-demographic characteristics of patients who completed TO (1536), VO (1065), or IPTM (1518) visits during the pandemic. VO patients were significantly younger than TO and IPTM patients (p<0.001). The majority of patients identified as White (61.3%) with Black and Hispanic patients accounting for 13.8% and 11.4% of the pandemic population, respectively. A higher proportion of White patients had VO visits (29.9%) compared to Black (15.2%) and Hispanic patients (13%) who both had a higher proportion of TO visits (34.7% vs 40.4% vs 50.9%, p<0.001). More patients with a college (29.9%) or post-graduate (34.3%) degree had VO visits than patients with a high school (16.3%) or other levels of education (21.5%) who were more likely to have TO visits (p<0.001). Median household incomes approximated from patient zip codes were significantly higher in patients with VO visits than those with TO or IPTM visits (p<0.001). Discussion: This study shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were significant differences in the socio-demographic composition of patients completing VO versus TO versus IPTM visits within the BWH DOH. Overall, individuals from groups that historically experience health inequities in the United States including the elderly, African Americans, Hispanics, and those with lower educational levels and socioeconomic status had fewer VO visits and more TO visits compared to patients who were younger, White, and had higher levels of education and socioeconomic status. These differences have important implications as VO visits may offer better clinical interaction when compared to TO visits. The younger age of patients seen during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic suggests that some older adults lost access to hematology care altogether during the pandemic. This disparity pre-pandemic to pandemic was not observed in other demographic subsets. Our work reveals a need to focus on digital inclusion efforts centered around device access, internet access, and digital literacy. Additionally, while TO and VO visits are temporarily equally reimbursed as in person visits under the U.S government's COVID emergency declaration, there has already been a return to markedly lower reimbursement for TO visits. Many practices and hospital system have lost significant revenue due to the pandemic and this differential reimbursement may disincentivize provi ing care through TO, even if that is the patient's only means of access. This could pose as a further barrier to telemedicine access for individuals from vulnerable populations and exacerbate structural racism, ageism, and other inequities. Care must be taken moving forward that actions to cope with the pandemic or modernize health care serve all patients. [Formula presented] Disclosures: Neuberg: Pharmacyclics: Research Funding;Madrigal Pharmaceuticals: Other: Stock ownership. Achebe: Fulcrum Therapeutics: Consultancy;Pharmacosmos: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees;Global Blood Therapeutics: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees.