A retrospective cohort study of clinical factors, visit patterns, and demographic factors associated with use of remote communications in patients with headache

Headache. 2021 Nov;61(10):1521-1528. doi: 10.1111/head.14226. Epub 2021 Oct 29.


Objective: To identify the characteristics associated with high utilization of remote communications (RCs) in patients with headache.

Background: Patients with headache frequently communicate with their providers using secure portal messaging and telephone calls. However, clinical and demographic factors as well as visit patterns associated with RC utilization remain poorly characterized.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed data from patients with headache who were evaluated in the ambulatory neurology faculty practice at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York between January 1 and June 30, 2019. We extracted clinical and demographic characteristics, total office visits, secure MyChart portal messages, and telephone encounters from our institutional data warehouse. We defined high RC and MyChart utilization as the top tertile of RC and MyChart message volume, respectively, and assessed the relationship between patient characteristics and high RC (primary outcome), as well as high MyChart utilization (secondary outcome). We characterized the relationship between clinicodemographic characteristics and the ratio of MyChart messages to total RCs (secondary outcome).

Results: We identified 1390 patients, of whom 477 (34.3%) were high RC utilizers and 321 (23.1%) were high MyChart utilizers. High RC utilizers generated 3306/3921 (84.3%) RCs. The presence of chronic headache (aOR 2.31, 95% CI 1.75-3.03, p < 0.0001), cluster headache (aOR 18.3, 95% CI 5.0-71.7, p = 0.001), and migraine (aOR 3.82, 95% CI 1.93-9.3, p = 0.011) was associated with high RC utilization. Patients ≥65 years of age were less likely to engage in MyChart messaging as a proportion of RC (191/680, 28.1%) compared with patients 18-30 years of age (243/620, 39.2%, p = 0.049) and 30-64 years of age (1172/2721, 43.1%, p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: A minority of patients with headache (477/1390; 34.3%) generated the majority (3306/3921; 84.3%) of RCs. Our findings should be validated in external patient cohorts with the objective of developing strategies to optimize RC utilization.

Keywords: burnout; patient portal; remote communications; secure messaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Communication*
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Headache / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Portals
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Telemedicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult