SRF062: What do UW Health primary care patients think about their telehealth visits?
Collin Ellenbecker; Valerie Gilchrist, MD
Context: Over the last decade, telehealth has become an increasingly common means of delivering care to patients and was necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, little telehealth was delivered by UW Health and almost none in primary care. The use of telehealth rapidly became the predominant choice for primary care delivery, but patients’ responses to this were unknown. Objective: The goal of this study is to explore patients’ opinions about their experiences with telehealth. Human Subjects Review: IRB exempt. Design: Qualitative, exploratory study. Setting: UW Health primary care, adult, English-speaking patients with at least one telehealth visit (phone or video) by a Family Medicine or General Internal Medicine clinician from April 1-June 12, 2020. Intervention/Instrument: Semi-structured interview guide. Main Outcome Measures: Patient-reported opinions about telehealth. Anticipated Results: From a patient pool of 12,636, individuals were randomly telephoned and asked to participate in a 15-20 minute audiotaped survey about telehealth. After a pilot, 233 patients were contacted and 52 interviews were completed. The majority of telehealth visits were by telephone, specifically smart phone, and were considered ‘easy’. Difficulties were not uncommon with video visits but were generally resolved. Patients reported convenience as the best aspect of telehealth, while technology/connection issues and the inability to do a complete physical exam were the worst aspects. Patients were not concerned about privacy. Most patients preferred office visits and video over telephone for ‘ease of communication’ and ‘enjoyment’. Office visits were considered to be ‘the gold standard’ but almost all patients stated they would have telehealth visits again outside of the pandemic. Patients felt that telehealth was best suited for simple or singular concerns and follow-up visits such as medication checks. Patients expressed a strong preference for having telehealth visits with their regular primary care provider. Patients who were older or located in rural areas with poor connection often reported that they were unable to do video visits. Conclusions: This study is a qualitative, exploratory study; the full qualitative analysis is not yet complete. Patients of UW Health generally like telehealth visits, especially with a known provider for follow-ups and simple health concerns. Patients with limited telehealth access should be further identified.