Background: Geographical barriers to subspecialty care may prevent optimal care of patients living in rural areas. We assess the impact of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C telemedicine consultation on patient-oriented outcomes in a rural Veterans Affairs population.
Methods: This was a pre- and post-intervention study comparing telemedicine with in-person subspecialty clinic visits for HIV and hepatitis C. Eligible patients resided in 2 rural catchment areas. The primary binary outcome was clinic completion. We estimated a logistic regression model with patient-level fixed effects. This approach controls for the clustering of visits by patient, uses each patient's in-person clinic experience as an internal control group, and eliminates confounding by person-level factors. We also surveyed patients to assess satisfaction and patient-perceived reductions in health visit-related time.
Results: There were 43 patients who accounted for 94 telemedicine visits and 128 in-person visits. Clinic completion rates were higher for telemedicine (76%) than for in-person visits (61%). In regression analyses, telemedicine was strongly predictive of clinic completion (OR 2.2; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0-4.7). The adjusted effect of telemedicine on clinic completion rate was 13% (95% CI: 12-13). Of the 30 patients (70%) who completed the survey, more than 95% rated telemedicine at the highest level of satisfaction and preferred telemedicine to in-person clinic visits. Patients reported a significant reduction in health visit-related time (median 340 minutes, interquartile range 250-440), mostly due to decreased travel time.
Conclusions: HIV and hepatitis C telemedicine clinics are associated with improved access, high patient satisfaction, and reduction in health visit-related time.