Telehealth use in gastroenterology has increased significantly during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, with both patients and gastroenterologists reporting a high level of satisfaction. This is according to results from a survey published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Researchers sent a survey via e-mail to 13,084 patients located in Michigan and the Washington, DC, area who had participated in a telehealth visit from March 2020 to May 2020. As of June 17, 2020, responses were received from 1492 patients (64.7% women). The patient survey included 2 prompts: “My GI provider was able to address my concerns during the telehealth visit,” and “I am willing to have more telehealth visits in the future.”
Concurrently, investigators distributed a provider-based survey to 2200 providers in 38 states; responses were received from 503 providers. The provider survey included 4 prompts: (1) “Telemedicine is an acceptable care delivery model for a segment of GI patients,” (2) “Telemedicine allows me to get an accurate health history for my patients and formulate a satisfactory care plan,” (3) “Telemedicine allows me to provide timely testing and follow-through without interruption to patient care,” and (4) “I will continue using telemedicine in my practice to deliver patient care.”
Responses to both surveys were recorded on a 5-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree). High satisfaction for all groups was defined as 80% approval or higher (responses of strongly agree and agree) to individual survey components.
Patient participants reported that they were highly satisfied with their telehealth visits, with 90.9% agreeing that the provider addressed their concerns and 84.3% willing to participate in telehealth visits in the future. High satisfaction was observed in all age groups, with the highest rate reported by patients older than 85 years; 94.7% of this group agreed that the provider addressed their concerns, and 89.5% were willing to participate in telehealth visits in the future.
Providers also reported an overall high level of satisfaction with telehealth services, with more than 90% of respondents strongly agreeing or agreeing with all 4 prompts. A majority of providers (54.1%) expected that less than one-quarter of their future care would be delivered via telehealth, while 10.7% thought that it would account for more than half of future health visits.
A decrease in regulatory barriers during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed at least 37 community-based gastroenterology practices in the United States to conduct 51,187 telehealth encounters in March 2020 and 90,084 in April, an increase of 76%.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth use increased dramatically to reduce disease transmission while ensuring continuity of care,” the investigators wrote. “This survey of community-based gastroenterology patients and providers showed high satisfaction and acceptance with virtual encounters.”
The investigators believe that their results are noteworthy for several reasons.
“Although previous studies have investigated provider and patient satisfaction in the provision of urology, dermatology, and urgent care, this survey evaluated provider and patient satisfaction in the setting of community-based general gastroenterology practices,” the study authors concluded. “In addition, it shows that stakeholders experience high satisfaction with and acceptance of telehealth when it is implemented in response to a disruption of the health care system.”
Dobrusin A, Hawa F, Gladshteyn M, et al. Gastroenterologists and patients report high satisfaction rates with telehealth services during the novel coronavirus 2019 pandemic. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020;18(11):2393-2397.e2.