Predictors of telemedicine use during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States-an analysis of a national electronic medical record database

PLoS One. 2022 Jun 29;17(6):e0269535. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0269535. eCollection 2022.

Abstract

Telemedicine utilization increased significantly in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is concern that disadvantaged groups face barriers to access based on single-center studies. Whether there has been equitable access to telemedicine services across the US and during later parts of the pandemic is unclear. This study retrospectively analyzes outpatient medical encounters for patients 18 years of age and older using Healthjump-a national electronic medical record database-from March 1 to December 31, 2020. A mixed effects multivariable logistic regression model was used to assess the association between telemedicine utilization and patient and area-level factors and the odds of having at least one telemedicine encounter during the study period. Among 1,999,534 unique patients 21.6% had a telemedicine encounter during the study period. In the multivariable model, age [OR = 0.995 (95% CI 0.993, 0.997); p<0.001], non-Hispanic Black race [OR = 0.88 (95% CI 0.84, 0.93); p<0.001], and English as primary language [OR = 0.78 (95% CI 0.74, 0.83); p<0.001] were associated with a lower odds of telemedicine utilization. Female gender [OR = 1.24 (95% CI 1.22, 1.27); p<0.001], Hispanic ethnicity or non-Hispanic other race [OR = 1.40 (95% CI 1.33, 1.46);p<0.001 and 1.29 (95% CI 1.20, 1.38); p<0.001, respectively] were associated with a higher odds of telemedicine utilization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, utilization of telemedicine differed significantly among patient groups, with older and non-Hispanic Black patients less likely to have telemedicine encounters. These findings are relevant for ongoing efforts regarding the nature of telemedicine as the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States / epidemiology

Grants and funding

SAMK receives grant funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (5K23HL153772-02) and the American Heart Association (20CDA35320251).The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.