July 28, 2022

Video vital for telehealth visits

Vanderbilt study of 18,130 telehealth visits at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic defines risk factors associated with telehealth access and suggests how health systems can improve access.

Video telehealth visits are an increasingly important part of health care, and increasingly video connection during such visits is required for insurance coverage. Yet many patients do not achieve a video connection and convert to audio-only visits, which are not as effective in communicating important health information.

Sarah H. Brown, MD, Michelle L. Griffith, MD, Sunil Kripalani, MD MSc, and Sara N. Horst, MD, MPH, studied 18,130 telehealth visits scheduled within adult medicine outpatient clinics at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, from March to July 2020.

They found that low health literacy and a high area deprivation index (ADI) were significantly associated with a conversion from a video to audio-only telehealth interface. ADI is a multi-dimensional evaluation of socioeconomic conditions that have been linked to health outcomes.

Reporting July 25 in the journal JAMA Network Open, the researchers concluded that, as ADI may reflect access to affordable internet, video-capable devices, and/or private spaces, healthcare systems should consider ways to improve telehealth access.