Telehealth video visits risk fragmenting care

(HealthDay)—Although telehealth video visits offer users greater convenience, they risk fragmenting care without greater coordination with usual care providers, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Winston R. Liaw, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Houston, and colleagues conducted an online survey of adults with access to telehealth services who visited health care providers for any of the 20 most commonly seen diagnoses during telehealth visits.

The researchers found that of the 766 participants who completed surveys, 51 percent were registered users (RUs) of telehealth who had completed a visit with the telehealth service provider LiveHealth Online, 15 percent were registered nonusers (RNUs) who registered for LiveHealth Online but had not conducted a visit, and 34 percent were nonregistered nonusers (NRNUs) who completed neither step. RUs were least likely to have a primary care usual source of care (65.6 percent versus 78.6 percent for RNUs and 80 percent for NRNUs). Further, nearly half (46.8 percent) of RUs were unable to get an appointment with their doctor, and more than one-third (34.8 percent) indicated that their doctor’s office was closed. RUs were most likely to be employed, have post-high school education, and live in urban areas.

“Telehealth may expand service access but risks further fragmentation of care and undermining of the primary care function absent better coordination and information sharing with usual sources of patients’ care,” the authors write.

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