Telehealth for Primary Care: Study Shows High Patient Satisfaction

If one recent study is any indication, patients are giving telehealth high marks. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, a qualitative study published in Annals of Family Medicine found that a group of patients who had participated in primary care telehealth visits were very satisfied with their experience—and very willing to utilize telehealth again in the future. Indeed, some would even rather have a virtual encounter than go into a provider’s office in certain cases. “Our study suggests that patients may accept and even prefer video visits with established primary care clinicians,” the researchers wrote. “Their experiences with telehealth visits for primary care were shaped by convenience, efficiency, privacy, and comfort.”

Researchers conducted interviews with a small group of patients—19 in total—who had had primary care telehealth visits via Philadelphia’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. Reasons for the visits included chronic disease management and follow-up care, and most encounters involved patients located in their homes. During post-visit interviews, patients reported (aside from some minor technical difficulties) that they appreciated being able to receive care without having to make an office visit: “Most participants reported a positive experience with video visits, citing conveniences of not having to miss work, travel, or change attire,” the researchers note. One notable finding: Some patients reported that they would prefer to receive bad medical news via telehealth, rather than in an office. “If it was something earth-shattering, you could cry in your own bedroom and not have to worry,” one respondent told researchers. Also notable: “All patients voiced interest in future video visits,” although they acknowledged that in-person visits were sometimes preferable. Given the small sample size, the study’s authors also encourage future research.

The study’s findings come not long after the release of a report that highlighted the challenges many family physicians face in implementing telehealth in their practices, despite its potential to alleviate primary care provider shortages. As we noted at the time, the study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JABFM) found that, while overall utilization is still relatively low, providers (particularly those in rural areas) have increasingly been bringing telehealth into their practices. Among the family physicians surveyed, the (familiar) central challenges to more widespread utilization tended to lie in lack of training, cost, and limited reimbursement—particularly with those providers who were not part of integrated health systems.

Click here to read the article on the Thomas Jefferson University study from Fierce Healthcare.

Click here to read the study results from Annals of Family Medicine.

Click here to read an article on the study from AAFP News.

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