Purpose: There is growing recognition that many physician-patient encounters do not require face-to-face contact. The availability of secure Internet portals creates the opportunity for online eVisits. Increasing numbers of health systems provide eVisits, and many health plans reimburse for eVisits. However, little is known on who chooses to seek care via an eVisit.
Materials and methods: At four primary care practices, we used the electronic medical record to identify all eVisits and office visits for sinusitis and urinary tract infections (UTIs) between January 2010 and May 2011. From the electronic medical record we abstracted the necessary information on patient demographics. The population studied included 5,165 sinusitis visits (9% of which were eVisits) and 2,954 UTI visits (3% eVisits).
Results: In multivariate models controlling for other patient factors, the variables most strongly associated with a patient initiating an eVisit versus an office visit were age (18-44 years of age versus 65 years of age and older: sinusitis, odds ratio 1.65 [0.97-2.81]; UTI, 2.97 [1.03-8.62]) and longer travel distance to clinic (>10 miles from patient home to clinic versus 0-5 miles: sinusitis, odds ratio 6.54 [4.68-9.16]; UTI, odds ratio 3.25 [1.74-6.07]). Higher income was not associated with higher eVisit use.
Conclusions: At these four primary care practices, eVisits accounted for almost 7% of visits for sinusitis and UTI. eVisits attract a younger patient population who might use eVisits for convenience reasons.