Telephone vs. video visits during COVID-19: Safety-net provider perspectives

Ji Eun Chang, Zoe Lindenfeld, Stephanie L. Albert, Rachel Massar, Donna Shelley, Lorraine Kwok, Kayla Fennelly, Carolyn A. Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: To review the frequency as well as the pros and cons of telephone and video-enabled telemedicine during the first 9 months of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as experienced by safety net providers across New York State (NYS). Methods: Analysis of visits to 36 community health centers (CHCs) in NYS by modality (telephone vs video) from February to November 2020. Semi-structured interviews with 25 primary care, behavioral health, and pediatric providers from 8 CHCs. Findings: In the week following the NYS stay-at-home order, video and telephone visits rose from 3.4 and 0% of total visits to 14.9 and 22.3%. At its peak, more than 60% of visits were conducted via telemedicine (April 2020) before tapering off to about 30% of visits (August 2020). Providers expressed a strong preference for video visits, particularly for situations when visual assessments were needed. Yet, more visits were conducted over telephone than video at all points throughout the pandemic. Video-specific advantages included enhanced ability to engage patients and use of visual cues to get a comprehensive look into the patient’s life, including social supports, hygiene, and medication adherence. Telephone presented unique benefits, including greater privacy, feasibility, and ease of use that make it critical to engage with key populations and as a backup for when video was not an option. Conclusions: Despite challenges, providers reported positive experiences delivering care remotely using both telephone and video during the COVID-19 pandemic and believe both modalities are critical for enabling access to care in the safety net.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1103-1114
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Community health centers
  • Health equity
  • New York
  • Safety-net providers
  • Telemedicine
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Pandemics
  • Safety-net Providers
  • Telephone
  • Humans
  • Child

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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