David Ramsey, MD, PhD, MPH, outlines what may have contributed to patients' decisions to return to in-person eye care following a telehealth appointment.
It's exciting to believe that the delivery of eye care through telehealth may have had an impact on that patient's decision to return to receive in-person care, said David Ramsey, MD, PhD, MPH, an ophthalmologist and director of ophthalmic research at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center of Beth Israel Lahey Health. Ramsey presented research during an American Academy of Ophthalmology 2021 conference session called "Telehealth Encourages More Minority Patients With Diabetes to Return for In-Person Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic." Research coauthors included Karen Latulippe; Jeffrey L. Marx, MD; Shiyoung Roh, MD; Claudia C. Lasalle; Sidrah Anjum; and Ed Momplaisir.
In your study, why do you think patients who completed a telehealth appointment were more likely to return for in-person care during the pandemic?
In this particular study, there is no control group. We are comparing those patients that received telehealth to those patients that did not receive that service. Although we show that telehealth services were delivered equally to various different groups, we don't know the characteristics of those who did or did not [complete in-person care], [they] don't necessarily reflect some intrinsic difference in people. For example, those people that were more likely to have a telehealth [visit], it could be that they were also simply more likely to return for an in-person visit.
Nonetheless, it's very exciting and enticing to believe that the delivery of care through telehealth services, where a physician contacts their patient and shares with them a concern for their vision, their eyes, and certainly during this period, their general health, may have had an important part in the process of them returning for in-person care. Another idea is that by virtue of these interactions, it may have put patients at greater ease, to give them greater confidence to return for in-person eye care by virtue of the earlier interaction where assurances can be given that we care about the patient's health, that we're doing what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that we're delivering safe eye care.