A recent study published in JAMA Network Open reveals that healthcare disparities based on race, ethnicity, and preferred language decrease when a combination of virtual and in-person care options are available to patients compared to when only in-person care is offered. The study, conducted at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and San Francisco Health Network (SFHN), examined rates of change in healthcare visits and between-visit interactions over time.
The researchers included 15,148 adult patients with diabetes who received primary care between April 2019 and March 2021. The study divided telehealth implementation into three phases: pre-public health emergency (PHE), strict shelter-in-place, and hybrid PHE with both virtual and in-person options. During the hybrid PHE period, the mean number of total encounters per patient per month increased at both sites.
The increase was primarily driven by the rise in between-visit interactions, such as unscheduled telephone calls and patient portal messages. However, the mean number of visits with team members and billing clinicians decreased at UCSF during the hybrid PHE period. At SFHN, visits with team members increased slightly, while visits with billing clinicians remained stable.
Furthermore, the study found that differences in visits by race, ethnicity, and preferred language that were present during the pre-PHE period disappeared during the hybrid PHE period. However, differences in between-visit interactions based on language preference remained at both organizations, decreased by age at SFHN, and decreased by race and ethnicity at UCSF during the hybrid PHE period.
The researchers suggest that more research is necessary to understand the drivers and impact of between-visit interactions, particularly on clinical outcomes and clinician well-being.
This study adds to the growing body of research on the impact of telehealth on healthcare utilization. Another study published earlier this year found that telehealth adoption in skilled nursing facilities during the pandemic was associated with an increase in psychiatry visits. The study analyzed telehealth use in SNFs before and during the pandemic and revealed a significant increase in telemedicine usage in 2020-2021 compared to previous years.
In conclusion, the availability of a mix of virtual and in-person care options can help reduce healthcare disparities based on race, ethnicity, and preferred language. Further research is needed to fully understand the impact of between-visit interactions and telehealth on clinical outcomes and clinician well-being.
– JAMA Network Open: [Insert Source URL]
– Skilled Nursing News: [Insert Source URL]