Patients’ Perspectives on the Shift to Telemedicine in Primary and Behavioral Health Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Carolyn Berry, Lorraine Kwok, Rachel Massar, Ji Chang, Zoe Lindenfeld, Donna R. Shelley, Stephanie L. Albert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Studies specifically focused on patients’ perspectives on telemedicine visits in primary and behavioral health care are fairly limited and have often focused on highly selected populations or used overall satisfaction surveys. Objective: To examine patient perspectives on the shift to telemedicine, the remote delivery of health care via the use of electronic information and communications technology, in primary and behavioral health care in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) during COVID-19. Design: Semi-structured interviews were conducted using video conference with patients and caregivers between October and December 2020. Participants: Providers from 6 FQHCs nominated participants. Eighteen patients and caregivers were interviewed: 6 patients with only primary care visits; 5 with only behavioral health visits; 3 with both primary care and behavioral health visits; and 4 caregivers of children with pediatric visits. Approach: Using a protocol-driven, rapid qualitative methodology, we analyzed the interview data and assessed the quality of care, benefits and challenges of telemedicine, and use of telemedicine post-pandemic. Key Results: Respondents broadly supported the option of home-based synchronous telemedicine visits in primary and behavioral health care. Nearly all respondents appreciated remote visits, largely because such visits provided a safe option during the pandemic. Patients were generally satisfied with telemedicine and believed the quality of visits to be similar to in-person visits, especially when delivered by a provider with whom they had established rapport. Although most respondents planned to return to mostly in-person visits when considered safe to do so, they remained supportive of the continued option for remote visits as remote care addresses some of the typical barriers faced by low-income patients. Conclusions: Addressing digital literacy challenges, enhancing remote visit privacy, and improving practice workflows will help ensure equitable access to all patients as we move to a new post-COVID-19 “normal” marked by increased reliance on telemedicine and technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • behavioral health
  • COVID-19
  • primary care
  • qualitative
  • telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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