A recent study published in JAMA Network Open found that offering a combination of virtual and in-person care options can decrease healthcare utilization disparities based on race, ethnicity, and preferred language. The study focused on rates of change in in-person and telehealth visits and between-visit interactions among adults with diabetes receiving primary care at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and San Francisco Health Network (SFHN).
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 care options. The researchers included 15,148 patients in the study sample and found that the mean number of total encounters per patient per month increased during the hybrid-PHE period compared to the pre-PHE period at both sites. This increase was primarily driven by the rise in between-visit interactions, which increased by 14% at UCSF and 23% at SFHN.
While the mean number of visits with any team member and with billing clinicians decreased at UCSF during the hybrid-PHE period, SFHN saw a slight increase in visits with any team member and stable visits with billing clinicians. The study also revealed that differences in visits by race, ethnicity, and preferred language that existed during the pre-PHE period disappeared during the hybrid-PHE period. However, differences in between-visit interactions persisted by language preference at both organizations, decreased by age at SFHN, and decreased by race and ethnicity at UCSF.
This study highlights the importance of offering a mix of virtual and in-person care options to bridge healthcare utilization disparities. The findings suggest that increased between-visit interactions play a significant role in improving access to healthcare for underserved populations. However, more research is needed to evaluate the impact of between-visit interactions on clinical outcomes and clinician well-being.
In addition to this study, another research article published earlier this year revealed that the adoption of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities during the pandemic was associated with an increase in psychiatry visits. This highlights the growing interest in assessing telehealth’s impact on healthcare utilization.
– JAMA Network Open: Study Title
– Research Article on Telehealth Use in Skilled Nursing Facilities