Concerns about telemedicine misplaced, study finds

Concerns about telemedicine misplaced, study finds

As the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, some health care providers quickly pivoted to telemedicine. It also gave rise to concerns, for some patients, about the quality of telemedicine.

Now, landmark research has concluded that telemedicine is a highly effective and efficient way to receive many kinds of health care. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center used data generated during the COVID-19 pandemic to address three major concerns about telemedicine. Those issues included highly vulnerable patients being unable to access digital health care, reimbursement rates that would encourage its overuse and a generalized concern that it is an ineffective way to provide care.

The researchers determined all of those worries are unfounded. The most vulnerable patients were found to be among the most engaged with telemedicine. Patient outcomes did not get worse, costs did not increase and the need for in-person follow-up care never grew. Likewise, there was no evidence of telemedicine overuse by either providers or patients.

Using data from more than 3,000 medical providers before and during the pandemic, the group analyzed data that included patient demographics, medical outcomes, the number of visits completed and providers’ use of telemedicine. Altogether, the figures showed no negative effects on patients or providers.

In fact, there was a demonstrable upside: Patients who have transportation issues were more likely to keep their appointments and make regular telemedicine visits. The findings also reinforce a pandemic-era lesson that will shape medicine for years to come: Telemedicine can be a convenient, effective complement to traditional care.


Related Episodes