Study: Younger, Richer, Newer Patients Most Likely to Use Telemedicine

Adults who use telemedicine services tend to be younger and more affluent and are less likely than the general population to have an established relationship with a primary care provider or other healthcare provider, according to a study in Health Affairs.

The RAND Corp. study focused on a large California state agency that has recently begun covering employees' healthcare services rendered through Teledoc, one of the nation's largest telemedicine providers.

An analysis of 3,701 encounters revealed the service was most often used for acute respiratory conditions, urinary tract infections and skin problems, and telemedicine patients were less likely to have a follow-up visit than patients who had visited a physician's office or the emergency department.

Because the telemedicine users tended to be younger and newer to the healthcare system, the study's authors suggest the use of Teledoc in California may be expanding care access to patients not already connected to the healthcare system, said Ateev Mehrotra, MD, a RAND researcher and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, in a news release.

"The people who are attracted to this type of telemedicine may be a more technologically savvy group that has less time to obtain medical care through traditional settings," he said.

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