Study Shows Telemedicine a Success

On Consult QD-Primary Care, a site for primary care physicians and healthcare professionals at the Cleveland Clinic, a recent study shows that patients generally like telemedicine, but the new study delved deeper into why it’s a success.

The study examined the patient, physician, and medical encounter characteristics that have the greatest impact on the patient’s overall satisfaction. The study analyzed data from 28, 222 medical encounters between 24,040 patients and 255 physicians. The researchers then used data from a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) telemedicine provider and from the Online Care Group (OCG) which pairs patients with physicians 24/7.

The data showed that the average length of each medical encounter was 6.6 minutes, and the average length of time a patient waited to be paired with a physician was 5.3 minutes. The majority of physicians involved in the study were general practitioners trained at U.S medical schools.

A typical visit costs $49. The patient lists the reason for the encounter, and then they are placed in a queue to be paired with a physician available anywhere in the country. At the end of the medical encounter, the patient is asked to rate their telemedicine physician from zero to five stars.

“After examining the data, the researchers found that two leading factors directly impact a patient’s satisfaction with DTC telemedicine whether or not a patient is prescribed medication after their medical encounter, and whether they used a coupon to lower the cost of their visit,” according to Kathryn Martinez, PhD, Lead Author of the Study.

It was found that 30-39 year olds rated their physicians more highly than 20-29 year olds. Patients who used the system more than once during the duration of the study were more likely to give their physician a higher satisfaction rating as compared to people calling on behalf of younger pediatric patients. Overall, 85 percent of patients rated their satisfaction level with their physician as five stars.

Patients were asked to describe where they would have gone if they had not used the telemedicine system. Forty three percent said they would have visited an urgent care or retail clinic, 29 percent would have gone to a doctor’s office, 15 percent would have done nothing, and 6 percent would have gone to the emergency room.

“DTC telemedicine has the potential to increase access to high value care, particularly for patients who don’t have the time or means to get to a brick and mortar setting,” said Dr. Martinez. “However, because patients face very low barriers to accessing care, the demand can increase some low value services. The next phase of the research will be to figure out which conditions are best suited to management by telemedicine.”

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