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Examining telehealth use among primary care patients, providers, and clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Der-Martirosian C, Chu K, Steers WN, Wyte-Lake T, Balut MD, Dobalian A, Heyworth L, Paige NM, Leung L. Examining telehealth use among primary care patients, providers, and clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC primary care. 2022 Jun 18; 23(1):155.

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BACKGROUND: At the onset of COVID-19, there was a rapid expansion of telehealth (video/telephone) visits to maintain delivery of primary care (PC) services at the Veterans Health Administration (VA). This study examines patient, provider, and site-level characteristics of any virtual and video-based care in PC. METHODS: Interrupted time series (ITS) design was conducted using VA administrative/clinical, electronic healthcare data, 12-months before and 12-months after COVID-19 onset (set at March 2020) at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLA), between 2019 and 2021. Patients with at least one visit to a VA PC clinic at GLA (n? = 547,730 visits) were included in the analysis. The two main outcomes for this study were 1) any telehealth (versus in-person), as well as 2) video-based care (versus telephone). For the ITS analysis, segmented logistic regression on repeated monthly observations of any telehealth and video-based care was used. RESULTS: Percent telehealth and video use increased from 13.9 to 63.1%, and 0.3 to 11.3%, respectively, before to after COVID-19 onset. According to adjusted percentages, GLA community-based clinics (37.7%, versus 29.8% in hospital-based clinics, p? < .001), social workers/pharmacists/dietitians (53.7%, versus 34.0% for PC clinicians, p? < .001), and minority groups, non-Hispanic African Americans (36.3%) and Hispanics (34.4%, versus 35.3% for Whites, p? < .001) were more likely to use telephone than video. Conversely, mental health providers (43.3%) compared to PC clinicians (15.3%), and women (for all age groups, except 75+) compared to men, were more likely to use video than telephone (all p's? < .001). CONCLUSIONS: Since telehealth care provision is likely to continue after COVID-19, additional research is needed to identify which PC outpatient services are better suited for telephone (e.g., case management) versus video-based care (e.g., integrated mental health visits). Additionally, it is important to understand how all clinics can systematically increase access to both telephone- and video-based PC services, while ensuring equitable care for all patient populations.

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