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Telemedicine Visits Do Not Lead to More Follow-Up Care

However, telemedicine visits associated with fewer medication prescriptions, orders for laboratory tests or imaging

By Physician’s Briefing Staff | December 03, 2021

Primary care visits conducted via telemedicine do not lead to higher health care utilization, according to a study published online Nov. 16 in JAMA Network Open.

Mary Reed, Dr.P.H., from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, and colleagues assessed whether treatment differs between primary care telemedicine and in-person visits and how often patients require in-person follow-up. Analysis included over 1.1 million patients who scheduled nearly 2.2 million primary care appointments through the patient portal from January 2016 to May 2018.

The researchers found that 38.6 percent of video visits, 34.7 percent of telephone visits, and 51.9 percent of office visits had any medication prescribed. Laboratory tests or imaging were ordered for 29.2 percent of video visits, 27.3 percent of telephone visits, and 59.3 percent of clinic visits. Follow-up visits within seven days of the index visit occurred after 25.4 percent of video visits, 26.0 percent of telephone visits, and 24.5 percent of office visits. There were no statistically significant differences in emergency department visits or rates of hospitalizations by primary care index visit type.

"In contrast to prior studies of direct-to-consumer telemedicine, we did not find evidence of over-ordering or over-prescribing among patients using telemedicine to visit their own primary care doctors," the authors said in a statement. "Video or telephone visits may be a convenient and safe way for patients to address some primary care needs without generating a substantial number of follow-up office visits or experiencing health events."

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