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J Telemed Telecare ; : 1357633X211015547, 2021 Jun 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1268164

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION: The increased use of telehealth to maintain ambulatory care during the COVID-19 pandemic had potential to exacerbate or diminish disparities in access to care. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to describe patient characteristics associated with successful transition from in-person to virtual care, and video vs audio-only participation. METHODS: This was a retrospective analysis of electronic health record data from all patients with ambulatory visits from 1 October 2019-30 September 2020 in a large integrated health system in the Northeast USA. The outcome of interest was receipt of virtual care, and video vs audio-only participation. We matched home addresses with census-tract level area social vulnerability index (SVI) and Internet access. Among ambulatory care patients, we used logistic regression to identify characteristics associated with virtual participation. Among virtual participants, we identified characteristics associated with video vs audio-only visits. RESULTS: Among 1,241,313 patients, 528,542 (42.6%) were virtual participants. Relative to in-person only, virtual participants were older, more often English-proficient and with activated patient portal. Characteristics associated with virtual participation included patients with: only behavioural health visits, COVID patients, highest quartile of visit frequency, and multiple visit types. Characteristics associated with video participation (relative to audio-only) included being younger and patients with: only behavioural health visits, highest quartile of visit frequency, non-Hispanic black race, limited English proficiency and inactivated portal account. DISCUSSION: In our regional healthcare system, the transition to virtual care during COVID was vital for continued access to care, but substantial inequity remained. Without audio-only visits, access to care would have been even more limited for our most vulnerable patients.

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