Patients were just as satisfied with telemedicine visits as in-person appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A study of 307,185 patient surveys by the Mayo Clinic found “no significant differences in patient ratings of telemedicine visits and in-person clinic visits” from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. The findings “demonstrated that patient satisfaction with telemedicine visits was non-inferior to in-person outpatient visits during the study timeframe,” according to the study published in Patient Experience Journal.

The study, “Outpatient visit modality and parallel patient satisfaction: A multi-site cohort analysis of telemedicine and in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic,” focused on synchronous video telemedicine to home services. The visits, involving primary and specialty care, were scheduled as regular appointments and were delivered via Zoom videoconferencing software integrated into the EPIC electronic health record system.

Female and male patients of all ages rated the visits on a five-level scale ranging from very poor to very good, with top scores representing the percentage of answers at the highest response of “very good” or “very likely.”

Overall, primary care earned scores of 84.3% for telemedicine compared to 85.1% for in-person visits. Family medicine ratings were tied at 84.7% for telemedicine or in-person appointments.

Within the primary care sector, the study found patients were more satisfied with in-person visits than telemedicine for obstetrics/gynecology (84.3% vs. 76.8%) and pediatric and adolescent care (83% vs 73.4%).

Physicians earned scores of 88.7% for telemedicine and 88.6% for in-person examinations. For nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and residents, all ratings were close, ranging from 85.6% to 88.8%.

While the study noted the growth of telemedicine during the pandemic, in-person visits accounted for 262,297 patient responses, or 85.4%, compared to 44,888 online visits, or 14.6%. The medical appointments took place in Mayo Clinic’s three main campuses and in more than 60 community-based hospital and clinic campuses in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Helpful advice

  • The study found the highest level of patient satisfaction with telemedicine visits was among patients aged 65 to 79 years, while patient and caregiver responses for patients aged 17 years or younger, preferred in-person visits. “It is important that health care organizations do not exclusively target telemedicine to their younger, more tech-savvy, patients,” the study said.
  • To be successful with telemedicine, organizations should make scheduling telemedicine appointments at least as easy as scheduling in-person visits.
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Medical Economics | November 7, 2022

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