Increasing Telehealth Access to Care for Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic at an Academic Medical Center: Video Visits for Elders Project (VVEP)

Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021 Dec 5:S1553-7250(21)00314-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjq.2021.11.006. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in ambulatory virtual care, threatening access to care for older adults with lower digital literacy. This report describes the Video Visits for Elders Project (VVEP), a quality improvement effort to help older adults access video visits at an academic primary care practice.

METHODS: We reached out to empaneled older adults (≥ 65 years) who had a scheduled visit between March 30 and June 12, 2020. We assessed patients’ readiness to engage in a virtual visit and offered to walk them through accessing the platform if they owned a compatible device. We evaluated outcomes of those phone calls and actual visit completion.

RESULTS: Between March 26 and June 3, 2020, we called 1,427 patients, reaching 1,025 (71.8%). Of those reached (mean age 75.6 years), 312 (30.4%) were already video-enabled, 192 (18.7%) asked for technical assistance, 185 (18.0%) did not have access to an electronic device, and 336 (32.8%) declined assistance. Of those reached, 40.4% completed their visit by video, 26.5% by telephone, and 1.4% by in-person visit, while 29.6% canceled and 2.1% no-showed.

CONCLUSION: VVEP successfully innovated to promote equitable access to telemedicine for vulnerable older patients in a time of crisis. Almost half required technical assistance or did not have access to a compatible device to engage in virtual care. As telemedicine will continue to play an important role in access to clinical care even in a postpandemic world, it is imperative for health systems to focus on technological need to promote equitable access to care for all patients.

PMID:35027304 | PMC:PMC8645266 | DOI:10.1016/j.jcjq.2021.11.006