Patterns and Disparities in Telehealth Usage During the COVID-19 Pandemic Across Surgical Specialties

Telemed J E Health. 2024 Mar;30(3):866-873. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2022.0332. Epub 2023 Sep 12.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated telehealth usage. This study aims to understand the impact of sociodemographic factors on telehealth usage during COVID-19 among surgical specialties. Methods: Our data contain surgical outpatient visits at an academic center from five periods between 2019 and 2020. A difference-in-differences regression model was used to examine the effect of exposure variables on virtual visit proportions between prepandemic and postpandemic time periods. Results: Compared with white patients, non-Medicare beneficiaries, and English-proficient patients, the rate of uptake in telehealth visits from prepandemic to postpandemic periods was lower for black patients, Medicare beneficiaries, and non-English-speaking patients, respectively. Surgical subspecialties saw varied usage of telehealth. A strong preference for phone visits by black patients, Medicare beneficiaries, and non-English-speaking patients existed. Conclusion: Phone visits are an important resource for marginalized communities. Understanding disparities in telemedicine usage may inform policy that could alleviate inequities in health care access.

Keywords: COVID-19; health services research; racial disparities; telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Pandemics
  • Specialties, Surgical*
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States