BACKGROUND: Telemedicine's dramatic increase during the COVID-19 pandemic elevates the importance of addressing patient-care gaps in telemedicine, especially for patients with limited English proficiency. OBJECTIVE: To examine the associations of patient language and patient-provider language concordance with telemedicine visit type (video versus telephone visit). DESIGN: Cross-sectional automated data study of patient-scheduled primary care telemedicine appointments from March 16, 2020, to October 31, 2020. SETTING: Northern California integrated healthcare delivery system. PARTICIPANTS: All 22,427 completed primary care telemedicine visits scheduled by 13,764 patients with limited English proficiency via the patient portal. MEASUREMENTS: Cross-sectional association of electronic health record-documented patient language (Spanish as referent) and patient-provider language concordance with patients' choice of a video (versus telephone) visit, accounting for patient sociodemographics, technology access, and technology familiarity factors. RESULTS: Of all patient-scheduled visits, 34.5% (n = 7747) were video visits. The top three patient languages were Spanish (42.4%), Cantonese (16.9%), and Mandarin (10.3%). Adjusting for sociodemographic and technology access and familiarity factors and compared to patients speaking Spanish, video visit use was higher among patients speaking Cantonese (OR = 1.34, 95% CI: 1.18-1.52), Mandarin (OR = 1.33, 95% CI: 1.16-1.52), or Vietnamese (OR = 1.27, 95% CI: 1.09-1.47), but lower among patients speaking Punjabi (OR = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.75, 0.62-0.91). Language concordance was associated with lower video visit use (OR = 0.86, 95% CI: 0.80-0.93) and moderated associations of speaking Spanish, Cantonese, and Korean with video visit use. In addition, for all language groups, those with prior video visit use were more likely to re-use video visits compared to those with no prior use (p < .05 for all languages except Hindi with p = 0.06). CONCLUSIONS: Among linguistically diverse patients with limited English proficiency, video telemedicine use differed by specific language. Disaggregating patient subpopulation data is necessary for identifying those at greatest risk of being negatively impacted by the digital divide.
OBJECTIVES: Telemedicine use expanded greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and broad use of telemedicine is expected to persist beyond the pandemic. More evidence on the efficiency and safety of different telemedicine modalities is needed to inform clinical and policy decisions around telemedicine use. To evaluate the efficiency and safety of telemedicine, we compared treatment and follow-up care between video and telephone visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. STUDY DESIGN: Observational study of patient-scheduled telemedicine visits for primary care. METHODS: We used multivariate logistic regression to compare treatment (medication prescribing, laboratory/imaging orders) and 7-day follow-up care (in-person office visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations) between video and telephone visits, adjusted for patient characteristics. RESULTS: Among 734,442 telemedicine visits, 58.4% were telephone visits. Adjusted rates of medication prescribing and laboratory/imaging orders were higher in video visits than telephone visits, with differences of 3.5% (95% CI, 3.3%-3.8%) and 3.9% (95% CI, 3.6%-4.1%), respectively. Adjusted rates of 7-day follow-up in-person office visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations were lower after video than telephone visits, with differences of 0.7% (95% CI, 0.5%-0.9%), 0.3% (95% CI, 0.2%-0.3%), and 0.04% (95% CI, 0.02%-0.06%), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Among telemedicine visits with primary care clinicians, return visits were not common and downstream emergency events were rare. Adjusted rates of treatment measures were higher and adjusted rates of follow-up care were lower for video visits than telephone visits. Although video visits were marginally more efficient than telephone visits, telephone visits may offer an accessible option to address patient primary care needs without raising safety concerns.
Subject(s)COVID-19 , Telemedicine , Humans , Pandemics , Follow-Up Studies , Patient Acceptance of Health Care , Primary Health Care , Telephone
The aim of this study is to examine the association between patient characteristics and primary care telemedicine choice among integrated delivery system patients self-scheduling visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. We used multivariate logistic regression to examine the association between the choice of video versus telephone and patient sociodemographic characteristics and technology access among patient-initiated primary care telemedicine visits scheduled online from March to October 2020. Among 978 272 patient-scheduled primary care telemedicine visits, 39% were video visits. Patients of Black or Hispanic race/ethnicity, or living in low socioeconomic status or low internet access neighborhoods were less likely to schedule video visits. Patients 65 years or older, with prior video visit experience or mobile portal access, or visiting their own personal provider were more likely to schedule video visits. While video adoption was substantial in all patient groups examined, differences in telemedicine choice suggest the persistence of a digital divide, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a telephone telemedicine option.