According to new athenahealth research, telehealth fills in care gaps for patients.


According to new study from athenahealth, the use of telehealth, which sharply surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, has not only remained far above pre-pandemic levels but has also established itself as a vital diagnostic tool and treatment vehicle. The results imply that telehealth is now integrated across the care continuum, according to athenahealth, a leading provider of network-enabled software and services for physician groups and health systems nationwide. The results also show that telehealth has grown beyond its initial pandemic function of only replacing in-person visits to play a greater role in care delivery and may be addressing important care gaps for patients.

Choosing a patient

According to 24% of respondents, telehealth was employed because they didn’t think an in-person visit was necessary for their health issues. This finding suggests telehealth can be used as a tool for more frequent check-ins as well as preventative treatment that might not otherwise be provided. With survey respondents saying they use telehealth as a strategy to manage their ailments, the usage of telehealth is particularly noticeable among individuals with chronic conditions (both in place of visits that would have otherwise been in person and for additional between visit check-ins). In fact, 23% of survey participants indicated they used telehealth for routine check-ins about chronic disorders, and 9% of participants said they used telehealth for ad hoc check-ins about chronic conditions. These findings suggest telehealth is serving an unmet need, allowing patients to access the care they want without being seen in-person.

Race and Gender

The study’s findings showed that there are significant gender inequalities in the adoption and use of telehealth, with male patients and providers significantly less likely to request or deliver telehealth services. In 2021, male providers were 24% less likely than female peers to conduct a telehealth visit, and this difference grew with time. Male patients used telehealth 15% less frequently than female ones did. Additionally, the gender of the provider had an impact on patients’ telehealth uptake, especially after accounting for other patient characteristics. Compared to patients who worked with with a female provider, patients who worked with a single male provider had 60% lower likelihood of adoption.

“Our data shows that after the height of the pandemic, many physicians continue to rely on telehealth, as they see the tremendous value it can provide”, “Additionally, previous research has shown that female clinicians tend to spend more time with patients, which could further explain higher provider adoption of telehealth among females compared to males, with female providers using telehealth as an additional tool for connecting with patients.”

Jessica Sweeney-Platt, vice president of research and editorial strategy at athenahealth

The results also showed that consumption habits varied according to race. Although the study found that Black and Hispanic patients were more likely to use telehealth services than their White counterparts, they were less likely to do so with a single, devoted provider. This suggests that access to care has improved but that continuity of care has not.

The study also revealed that although follow-up appointments at a FQHC practise were more likely to be virtual, individual sessions held at these facilities were still more likely to be in-person. These results suggest that telemedicine is being used by FQHC facilities to enhance care continuity.

“Our research brings to light the vital role telehealth can play in patient care. Not only does it increase access to care, but it can drive better patient outcomes when used as an extension of in-person visits to provide continuity of care.”

Jessica Sweeney-Platt, vice president of research and editorial strategy at athenahealth

Mental Wellness

According to the study, telehealth has also become an essential tool for improving patients’ capacity and willingness to participate in mental healthcare. Twenty-five percent of survey participants said they used a telehealth visit to address a fresh mental health issue, and 23% said having access to telehealth made them more willing to look for mental health support.

Additionally, telemedicine visits were considerably more likely than in-person appointments to identify mental health illnesses, indicating that telehealth can be used as both a diagnostic and therapeutic tool.

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