NYU Study Finds a Significant Uptick in Telemedicine Use During Height of COVID-19

A new study revealed that telemedicine visits accounted for well over half of patient care at New York community health centers during spring 2020, the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. The study, led by researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health, sought to assess the role of telephone and video-based telemedicine in providing health care access.

To conduct this study, researchers tracked the use of telephone, video, and in-person visits across 36 New York community health centers from February to November 2020. They also interviewed 25 primary care, behavioral health, and pediatric providers from eight community health centers pertaining to their experience with telemedicine during the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, the results showed that visits markedly increased during the first wave of COVID-19 across New York State. At the height of the pandemic (April 11- May 2, 2020), more than 60% of visits were conducted via telemedicine. Surprisingly, though video telemedicine visits are often viewed as the “golden standard” alternative to in-person visits, the study found that telephone visits accounted for a larger portion of telemedicine care than video visits. However, that gap narrowed over time as telemedicine visits began to taper off, accounting for less than 30% of visits by August 2020.

“Our study suggests that both video and phone visits will continue to shape how health care is delivered in a post-pandemic world,” said Ji Eun Chang, assistant professor of public health policy and management at NYU School of Global Public Health and the lead author of the study via a press release.

“Despite challenges, providers had positive experiences delivering care remotely using both telephone and video during the COVID-19 pandemic and believe both are critical for enabling access to care in the safety net,” said Chang. “The growth of telemedicine during the pandemic signifies a tectonic shift in health care delivery that is unlikely to be reversed.”