A recent analysis found only a modest difference in outcomes after in-person medical visits compared with telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, “suggesting that telephone or video telemedicine was still capable of addressing most patient clinical concern areas,” the researchers wrote. [JAMA]
The study involved nearly 1.6 million US adults in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health system. The researchers analyzed more than 2 million primary care visits in 2021, about half of which were telemedicine appointments.
The rates of treatment, including medication prescribing, were lower with telephone and video primary care visits than with in-person office visits, while the rates of follow-up health care visits, such as hospitalizations and visits to the emergency department, were higher. But these differences were small.
The differences in certain study outcomes were smaller for some types of appointments, such as those addressing mental health concerns, compared with others, like musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, or skin concerns. Telemedicine appointments, which can mitigate barriers to care such as lack of transportation or inability to get time off work, might be more appropriate for certain types of visits, the researchers noted in Annals of Internal Medicine.