News: Telehealth options increased cardiology visits for some underserved groups

CDI Strategies - Volume 15, Issue 14

Studies have shown that more than one-third of adults delayed or skipped medical care because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The advent of greater telehealth options, however, increased cardiology visits for some underserved groups, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.

Asian, Black, and Hispanic individuals accounted for a similar proportion of in-person visits before and during the pandemic (28.6% and 26.5%), but that rose to 30.4% of video-based cardiovascular care and 35.0% of telephone-based cardiology telehealth during the pandemic, MedPage Today reported.

Those with cardiovascular comorbidities also used telemedicine significantly more often, researchers reported:

  • Hypertensive patients accounted for 42.6% and 42.1% pre-COVID and COVID-era in-person visits versus 49.9% of COVID-era telephone visits
  • Heart failure patients accounted for 16.4% and 14.1% of those in-person visits but 24.8% and 25.8% of COVID-era video and telephone visits, respectively

Prior studies have shown that communities of color and marginalized populations have had more trouble accessing telehealth, according to MedPage Today. There are a few potential reasons for the differences in the new findings, researchers suggested.

The group's study encompassed EHR data for all ambulatory cardiology visits across the 31 Cedars-Sinai system clinics in Los Angeles from April 1 to December 31 in 2019 and in 2020. That amounted to 87,182 in-person visits pre-pandemic and 74,498 in the COVID-era, along with 4,720 video and 10,381 telephone visits during the pandemic.

While nearly 72% of the studied population was non-Hispanic white, the entire population had high concentration of private insurance and Medicare coverage, which can be an indicator of higher socioeconomic status. Privately insured patients accounted for a bigger proportion of COVID-era telehealth visits: 39.1% and 34.2% of in-person visits before and during the pandemic, respectively, versus 54.3% of COVID-era video visits and 41.1% of COVID-era phone visits.

Another possibility is that, because minority individuals make up a disproportionate percentage of essential workers, these patients were unable to take off work hours for medical visits or due to trouble with transportation, according to MedPage Today.

It’s also possible that the racial and ethnic minority groups and those with comorbidities might have known they're at higher COVID-19 risk and they may have been more reluctant to come in for in-person visits.

Editor’s note: To read MedPage Today’s coverage of this story, click here. To read the full study, click here. To read more about the state of minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

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