University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Patients’ View of Their Primary Care Telemedicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Implications for Future Integration: A Multimethod Study

Valerie Gilchrist, MD; Kendra Nervik, PhD(c); Collin Ellenbecker, BSc; Wen-Jan Tuan, DHA, MS, MPH; Mark A. Micek, MD, MPH; Ellen Goldstein, PhD, MFT

WMJ. 2022;121(3):181-188

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Introduction: Telemedicine has become an integral part of primary care since the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper reports patients’ assessments of their early telemedicine visits.

Methods: Adult primary care patients who had a telemedicine visit were identified from electronic medical records of a large Midwestern health system and randomly invited to participate in semistructured interviews. Participants compared telemedicine visits (audio and video) to face-to-face visits on measures of satisfaction and answered open-ended questions about the technology, primary care relationships, and ongoing use of telemedicine. Interviews were recorded and responses transcribed for qualitative analysis.

Results: The quantitative results revealed participants valued convenience and judged telemedicine visits “about the same” as office visits on satisfaction measures. Participants were largely willing to have another telemedicine visit but were concerned with the technological challenges and lack of physical examination. The qualitative analysis found most participants reported that telemedicine care was best with a known clinician. Further, they judged telemedicine to be best for follow-ups and simple or single problems and believed it should be balanced with face-to-face visits.

Conclusions: Participants expect telemedicine will continue and have clearly articulated their telemedicine preferences. These preferences include telemedicine with a known clinician, the visits that they judged most appropriate for telemedicine, the need to balance telemedicine with face-to-face visits, and assured technologic access. The need for quality measures beyond patient satisfaction and the role of team-based telemedicine care emerged as areas for further research.

Author Affiliations: Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH), Madison, Wisconsin (Gilchrist); Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin College of Letters and Science, Madison, Wis (Nervik); UWSMPH, Madison, Wis (Ellenbecker); Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania (Tuan); Department of Medicine, UWSMPH, Madison, Wis (Micek); Department Population Health Nursing Science, University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing, Chicago, Illinois (Goldstein).
Corresponding Author: Valerie Gilchrist, MD, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 1100 Delaplaine Court, Madison, WI 53715; phone 608.265.0856; email; ORCID ID 0000-0001-9973-1492
Acknowledgments: This work would not have been possible without the invaluable and numerous contributions of Mary Checovich, administrative program specialist. Rachel Lundwall’s skill was critical to the manuscript submission.
Funding/Support: Collin Ellenbecker was supported through a grant made by the Summer Research and Clinical Assistantship Program from the University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Preliminary Results Presented: Ellenbecker C, Gilchrist V. What do UW Health primary care patients think of their telehealth visits? Poster presented at NAPCRG 48th Annual Meeting; Nov, 2020; virtual conference.
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