An analysis of patients and providers from endocrine clinics suggests many patients and providers were open to continuing with telehealth practices after the pandemic and many saw little to no limitations with the new practices.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed health systems to the brink, this strain has also led to the discovery of some silver linings—namely, the acceptance and integration of telehealth.
Prior to the pandemic, many saw telehealth as an innovation that was years away from widespread implementation, but COVID-19 forced the rapid adoption of many new practices. Now, a study from ENDO 2021 suggests endocrinology providers and patients may favor use of telemedicine as the pandemic begins to subside.
“Endocrinology clinics have significant number of patients who need long-term close follow-up for medication adjustments, symptom checks and counseling,” said lead researcher Maryam Nemati, MD, of San Joaquin General Hospital in California, in a statement. “Our survey found most patients felt that quality of telehealth visits both via video and phone were like in-person visits, and telemedicine is less expensive and timesaving. However, our providers felt that phone visits lack a physical examination component and therefore preferred video visits to phone visits. Given these survey results, telemedicine—particularly video visits—can be incorporated as part of follow-up visits after the COVID crisis ends.”
With an interest in evaluating patient and provider satisfaction with telehealth visits, Nemati and a team of colleagues designed and administered a survey two assess benefits and limitations telehealth visits, as well as the difference in no-show rate for 6 weeks before and after telehealth visits began. Investigators administered surveys to 109 patients who took part in a telehealth visit from January 2020-May 2020.
Among the 109 patients included in the analysis, 65% indicated they would like to continue with telemedicine following the pandemic. Specifically, 42% of patients indicated they preferred video visits and 37% indicated a preference for phone calls. When assessing limitations, the most common limitation reported was connection difficulty (25%) while 37% reported no limitations at all. Additionally, 90% of patients felt all their questions or concerns were responded to using telehealth and 77% reported they believed the quality of care using telehealth was almost the same as an in-clinic visit.
Among providers surveyed, 75% indicated a willingness to continue with telemedicine following the pandemic. When assessing benefits, 50% of providers mentioned patient satisfaction and 25% reported time savings as perceived benefits of telemedicine.
When assessing limitations, 46% noted lack of physical exam and 40% mentioned technology connection as a limitation of video visits while 60% reported lack of exam as a limitation of phone visits. Additionally, 87% of providers reported the belief that quality of care via phone visits was not the same as in-clinic visits, but 75% reported the belief that the quality of a video visit was similar to that of an in-clinic visit.
Respondent responses indicate a decrease in no-show rate from 30% to 27% in the 6 weeks prior compared to the 6 weeks following the pandemic.
"Telehealth can be more efficient for both patients and providers, but there are challenges with connectivity issues, particularly for patients and community hospitals in rural areas like our hospital," Nemati said. "These issues need to be addressed, possibly through collaborations with local government and insurance companies."
This study, “Evaluating the Use of Telemedicine in Endocrinology Clinic,” was presented virtually as part of ENDO 2021.