NYU Langone virtual urgent care visits increased 683% during COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven rapid expansion of telemedicine use for both urgent care and non-urgent care visits, growing 683 percent and 4,345 percent, respectively, at NYU Langone Health, according to a recent Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association study.

For the study, NYU Langone researchers examined the growth of video-enabled visits at the New York City-based health system between March 2 and April 14. The researchers captured insights on COVID-19-related visits through the organization's Epic EHR system. The team used diagnostic codes containing relevant respiratory issues and matched them with key terms describing symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath and cough.

Here are five study insights:

1. Over the six-week period, 2,656 unique providers completed more than 144,900 video visits involving 115,789 unique patients.

2. Of all the virtual visits, 56.2 percent of urgent care and 17.6 percent of non-urgent visits were related to COVID-19.

3. To accommodate the growth in virtual visits, NYU Langone increased its pool of 40 emergency medicine providers, which managed less than 100 visits per typical day, to 289 providers from multiple specialties.

4. Patients ages 20-44 used telemedicine the most, particularly for urgent care.

5. Patient satisfaction with telemedicine remained positive despite the rapid adoption of "virtually inexperienced providers"; on a five-point scale, patient satisfaction with telemedicine pre- and post-COVID-19 remained at 4.38.

Study authors concluded that the expansion of telemedicine access allowed the dramatic increase in patient and provider volumes. Further, in an emailed news release to Becker's Hospital Review, lead study author Oded Nov, PhD, added: "An important question going forward is how much this will continue beyond the COVID pandemic. While we expect patients and providers who got a crash course in telemedicine to continue using it long term, regulators and insurers' decisions will have a major impact."

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