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Patient Perceptions of Video Visits Using Veterans Affairs Telehealth Tablets: Survey Study.

Slightam C, Gregory AJ, Hu J, Jacobs J, Gurmessa T, Kimerling R, Blonigen D, Zulman DM. Patient Perceptions of Video Visits Using Veterans Affairs Telehealth Tablets: Survey Study. Journal of medical Internet research. 2020 Apr 15; 22(4):e15682.

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BACKGROUND: Video-based health care can help address access gaps for patients and is rapidly being offered by health care organizations. However, patients who lack access to technology may be left behind in these initiatives. In 2016, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began distributing video-enabled tablets to provide video visits to veterans with health care access barriers. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to evaluate veterans' experiences with VA-issued tablets and identify patient characteristics associated with preferences for video visits vs in-person care. METHODS: A baseline survey was sent to the tablet recipients, and a follow-up survey was sent to the respondents 3 to 6 months later. Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify patient characteristics associated with preferences for care, and we examined qualitative themes around care preferences using standard content analysis methods for coding the data collected in the open-ended questions. RESULTS: Patient-reported access barriers centered around transportation and health-related challenges, outside commitments, and feeling uncomfortable or uneasy at the VA. Satisfaction with the tablet program was high, and in the follow-up survey, approximately two-thirds of tablet recipients preferred care via a tablet (194/604, 32.1%) or expressed that video-based and in-person care were "about the same" (216/604, 35.7%), whereas one-third (192/604, 31.7%) indicated a preference for in-person care. Patients were significantly more likely to report a preference for video visits (vs a preference for in-person visits or rating them "about the same") if they felt uncomfortable in a VA setting, reported a collaborative communication style with their doctor, had a substance use disorder diagnosis, or lived in a place with better broadband coverage. Patients were less likely to report a preference for video visits if they had more chronic conditions. Qualitative analyses identified four themes related to preferences for video-based care: perceived improvements in access to care, perceived differential quality of care, feasibility of obtaining necessary care, and technology-related challenges. CONCLUSIONS: Many recipients of VA-issued tablets report that video care is equivalent to or preferred to in-person care. Results may inform efforts to identify good candidates for virtual care and interventions to support individuals who experience technical challenges.

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