Telemedicine success in GI slightly influenced by age, race: 4 findings from Penn researchers

Telemedicine has generally worked well for Penn Medicine's gastroenterology and hepatology patients and clinicians, although Black patients and older patients tend to be less satisfied with their telemedicine visits than other groups, according to a new study published in Gastroenterology.

Penn Medicine's gastroenterology and hepatology practice performed about 5 percent of weekly visits via telemedicine before the pandemic. That number jumped to 94 percent from March 16 to April 10. After the significant increase in telemedicine utilization, researchers surveyed nearly 800 gastroenterology and hepatology patients and physicians about their experiences.

Four key takeaways:

1. Overall, video and telephone appointments held during the height of COVID-19 restrictions were considered "good/better" than in-person visits by 67 percent of patients. Ninety-six percent of patients said they were "somewhat" or "very" satisfied with the quality of care they received via FaceTime, Skype or phone.

2. Black patients and patients ages 60 or older had less favorable experiences compared to other groups. Sixty-one percent of patients in the 60-plus group and 62 percent of Black patients rated their telemedicine appointments as "good/better" than traditional visits.

"This shows we should investigate the reasons why these particular patients don't feel telemedicine meets their needs to the same extent as their peers,” said study author Marina Serper, MD, an assistant professor at Penn. "For older patients, it's likely their unfamiliarity with video visits and some of the technology, but the reasons are less clear when looking at Black patients."

3. Generally, patients preferred video visits to phone appointments, but researchers noted that not all patients have access to the technology needed for telemedicine via video.

"Our research makes a case that the internet should really be considered a healthcare need," Dr. Serper said.

4. Eighty-eight percent of clinicians rated their telemedicine appointments as "good/better" than in-person care, and more than 80 percent were either somewhat or very satisfied with the level of care they were able to provide.

Click here for more information about the survey results.

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