Purpose: Our study examined whether telemedicine use in primary care is associated with risk factor assessment and control for patients with diabetes mellitus.
Methods: This was a retrospective, 1:1 propensity score matched cohort study conducted in a primary care network between February 2020 and December 2020. Participants included patients with diabetes mellitus, ages 18 to 75. Exposure of interest was any telemedicine visit. We determined whether hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), blood pressure (BP) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) were assessed for each patient. For each risk factor, we also determined whether the risk factor was controlled when they were assessed (i.e., last HbA1c < 8.0%, BP < 130/80 mmHg, LDL-C < 100 mg/dL).
Results: After 1:1 propensity score matching, we identified 1,824 patients with diabetes during the study period. Telemedicine use was associated with a lower proportion of patients with all three risk factors assessed (162/912 [18%], versus 408/912 [45%], p < 0.001). However, when individual risk factors were assessed, telemedicine use did not impact risk factor control. When compared with patients with in-person visit only, the odds ratio (OR) for HbA1c < 8% was 1.04 (95% CI 0.74 to 1.46, p = 0.23) for patients with any telemedicine visit. Similarly, the OR for BP < 130/80 mmHg was 1.08 (95% CI 0.85-1.36 p = 0.53), and the OR for LDL-C < 100 mg/dL was 1.14 (95% CI 0.76-1.72, p = 0.52).
Conclusions: Telemedicine use was associated with gaps in risk factor assessment for patients with diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but had limited impact on whether risk factors were controlled.
Keywords: Diabetes; Primary care; Quality of care; Telemedicine.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Italian Society of Endocrinology (SIE).