In-person, telehealth combo expands access while maintaining quality, study finds

A hybrid approach to primary care that offers in-person, video and occasional audio-only appointments can increase access to medical services while maintaining quality, a recent Rand Corp. report concluded.

The May 15 study analyzed the rollout of telehealth at federally qualified health centers in California, where phone or video visits increased from zero in February 2020 to more than 1 out of every 6 appointments in April 2020, while in-person visits dropped by more than one-third.

The report cited concerns from health center staff about the efficacy of audio-only visits in which providers couldn't visibly see patients, the technological difficulties of navigating video consultations and whether these technology concerns affect the quality of care.

"Interviewees noted the importance of telehealth in maintaining patient access to care and in overcoming barriers to in-person care, such as transportation," the report stated. "However, some expressed concern about inequities in access, particularly for patients who were most affected by the digital divide."

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