Background: Acute sinusitis is the most common diagnosis in online health care delivery and is the diagnosis most associated with antibiotic prescriptions in the outpatient setting. Few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of managing sinusitis through e-visit in terms of antibiotic prescribing and follow-up rates. Introduction: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether e-visits for the management of acute sinusitis have equivalent clinical outcomes for patients when compared with face-to-face (F2F) visits and nurse-administered phone protocols in terms of antibiotic prescriptions and follow-up rates. Materials and Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted on empaneled primary care patients between the ages of 18 and 75 years who had a clinical encounter for acute sinusitis at Mayo Clinic Rochester through e-visit, retail health clinic, or phone protocol. Initial antibiotic prescribing rates and follow-up rates for each encounter type were compared. Results: Both e-visit and phone protocol sinusitis encounters were less likely to result in initial treatment with an antibiotic than an F2F visit (84/150 [56%] e-visit, 92/150 [61%] phone, 108/150 [72%]; p = 0.01). There was no significant difference in follow-up rate between e-visits and F2F (27/150 [18%] vs. 21/150 [14%]; p = 0.34), and e-visits had significantly fewer follow-up visits than phone protocol (27/150 [18%] vs. 53/150 [35%]; p < 0.001). Conclusions: e-Visits are an effective modality to care for patients with acute sinusitis, offering equivalent or lower treatment and follow-up rates than more traditional avenues such as F2F visit at a retail clinic and phone protocol.
Keywords: acute sinusitis; e-visits; electronic visits; primary care; telemedicine.