Background: There are disparities in access to specialty care for chronic diseases in rural and minority populations. Telemedicine has been proposed to improve access. Introduction: The objective of this study was to identify predictors of telemedicine use for chronic disease specialty care in the Alaska Tribal Health System (ATHS) in the setting of usual care. Materials and Methods: We utilized data from the electronic health record (EHR) of patients from four regions in the ATHS. We queried the EHR to identify cases (ever users of telemedicine) and controls (never users), both of whom had chronic diseases requiring specialty care. Data were collected from 2015 through mid-2019. Results: We included 3,075 patients (799 ever users and 2,276 never users). In univariate analysis, ever users were older, more likely to be male, had more chronic conditions and higher encounter rates. There were differences by region, community, and type of specialty clinic. In our simple multivariate model, factors associated with telemedicine use included age, male gender, region, and outpatient visit rate per year. Having at least one cardiology clinic visit was also associated with telemedicine use, with the highest estimated odds ratio (5.27, p < 0.01). Discussion: This study describes factors associated with telemedicine use in the ATHS before the COVID-19 pandemic. We anticipate monitoring changes in these predictors over time, as we expect them to evolve. Conclusions: We found among factors associated with telemedicine use were age, gender, region, outpatient visit rate, and visits to a specific specialty clinic.
Keywords: chronic disease; rural populations; telehealth; telemedicine.