Washington DC – A study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology suggests that telehealth services are an effective way to treat patients safely during periods of health care system disruption and shows that both patients and gastroenterology (GI) physicians overwhelmingly approve of telehealth services provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an online satisfaction survey with 1492 respondents from two community-based GI practices in Michigan and the Washington, DC region, procedure-related visits, including preparatory and follow-up appointments, were the most common reason for a telehealth visit. Overall, patients were highly satisfied with their telehealth experience, with more than nine in 10 (91%) reporting that their GI provider was able to address their concerns during their telehealth visit. More than eight in 10 patients (84 percent) responded that they were willing to participate in telehealth visits in the future.
“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic represents the first large-scale use of the telehealth model during a national crisis and it has been shown to be a useful innovation during times of disruption to our health care system,” said Dr. Naresh Gunaratnam, research director at Huron Gastroenterology and chair of data analytics for the Digestive Health Physicians Association (DHPA). “The expansion of telehealth coverage by CMS and commercial payors in the face of the pandemic has helped us enhance the care experience and improve cost-effectiveness.”
An online survey of independent gastroenterology practices that are members of DHPA found that almost all (97%) of the 503 physician respondents agreed (14%) or strongly agreed (83%) that telemedicine is an acceptable care delivery model for a segment of GI patients.
Other findings in the study include:
- Almost all (98%) physician respondents strongly agreed (74%) or agreed (24%) that telemedicine allows them to get an accurate health history for their patients and formulate a satisfactory care plan.
- More than nine in 10 physician respondents strongly agreed (73%) or agreed (23%) that telemedicine allows for timely testing and follow through without interruption to patient care.
- Almost nine in 10 patients (86%) seen for hepatic, biliary, and pancreatic disorders reported that their concerns were addressed by the provider.
- Almost eight in 10 patients (77%) seen for hepatic, biliary, and pancreatic disorders expressed willingness to utilize telehealth in the future.
- Patients aged 85 and older had the highest rate of satisfaction with telehealth visits at 95%, followed by patients aged 75-85 at 93%.
More than nine in 10 (92%) respondents to the physician survey agreed or strongly agreed that they would continue using telemedicine in their practice to deliver patient care, with a majority (54 percent) reporting that less than one-quarter of their future care is expected to be delivered via telehealth.
“The transition to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed us to continue providing patient care while reducing the risk of infection, which is critically important for elderly and immunocompromised patients and those with chronic health conditions,” said Dr. James Weber of Texas Digestive Disease Consultants and president of DHPA. “Health care leaders, policymakers and payors must begin working together to strike the right balance between telehealth offerings and in-person care for a post-pandemic world.”
The study can be downloaded here: https://www.cghjournal.org/action/showPdf?pii=S1542-3565%2820%2930976-9
About the Online Surveys
For the patient survey, a total of 13,084 patients from two community-based GI practices in Michigan and the Washington, DC region who participated in a telehealth visit from March-May of 2020 were sent an online satisfaction survey by email. Responses were received from 1,492 patients.
Concurrently, a provider-based opinion survey was distributed to a medical association consisting of 95 independent GI practices with more than 2200 providers in 38 states who are members of DHPA. Seventy-one practices with 2,017 providers opted to participate in the survey (74.7% practice response rate). Responses were received from 503 of these providers (22.9% overall response rate).
The Digestive Health Physicians Association (DHPA) is a trade association currently comprised of 95 independent gastroenterology (GI) physician practices across the country with the aim of promoting and preserving accessible, high quality and cost-efficient care in the independent GI medical practice setting. DHPA’s member practices include more than 2200 gastroenterologists and other physician specialists who provide care for over two million people annually. DHPA’s member practices also employ more than 11,000 employees in their medical groups.