Is Telemedicine Closing the ‘Race Gap’ in Primary Care? | Health News

 Is Telemedicine Closing the ‘Race Gap’ in Primary Care? | Health News

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter, HealthDay Reporter

(Health Day)

FRIDAY, May 13, 2022 (HealthDay News)-Here’s one way the pandemic hasn’t exacerbated health care disparities: A new study shows telemedicine is closing the access gap of primary care between Blacks and non-Black Americans.

The use of telemedicine increased during the pandemic, so researchers at the University of Pennsylvania decided to examine how Black patients had historically been affected by reduced access to primary care.

“We’re looking at the whole year 2020, not just the first half of the year where telemedicine is the only option for many people, and the appointment completion gap between Black and non-Black patients is closed. , “said the study’s senior author Dr. Krisda Chaiyachati, an assistant professor of medicine at Penn Medicine.

“Offering telemedicine, even if it’s for a crisis, as an important step forward to address the long-standing inequality of access to health care,” he said in a release. university news.

The researchers analyzed data on visits of Black and non-Black patients (mostly white) to major Philadelphia area care providers in 2019 and 2020. The study included about 1 million appointment annually.

Rates of completed primary care visits to Black patients increased from about 60% in 2019 to more than 80% in 2020, while rates for non-Blacks increased from about 70%. up to more than 80%.

“The specific periods of time where we saw significant victories being made by Black patients came when telemedicine was well established in our health system,” Chaiyachati said. “It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence.”

Black patients are more likely to use telemedicine than non -black patients. By 2020, about 33% of appointments for Black patients will be completed through telemedicine, compared to 25% for non-Black patients, according to the findings.

“Telemedicine allows patients to seek non-urgent primary care despite hesitation for a personal visit prior to vaccination,” said study co-author Dr. Corinne Rhodes, an assistant professor of internal medicine and assistant medical director of Primary Care Quality at Penn Medicine Service Line.

“Providing chronic disease management and preventive care has helped bring primary care offices closer to the pre-pandemic business as usual,” he said in the release.

There are concerns at the onset of the pandemic that telemedicine may widen the racial gap in access to care, but this study adds to the evidence that this is not the case in primary care.

“As the healthcare sector – policymakers, payers, providers and patients – continues to develop the role that telemedicine can play in the future of healthcare, understanding how it can be mechanism for improving justice is an important dimension to consider, ”Chaiyachati said.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, news release, May 9, 2022

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