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Study: Low Health Literacy, Poorer Neighborhoods Associated With Audio-Only Telehealth Use

Study: Low Health Literacy, Poorer Neighborhoods Associated With Audio-Only Telehealth Use

According to a study published in Open JAMA Network.

The researchers analyzed more than 18,000 scheduled telehealth visits from outpatient clinics that are part of a large health system. The visits occurred early in the COVID-19 pandemic, between March and July 2020. They found that lower health literacy and a higher Area Deprivation Index (ADI) were associated with audio-only visits, and a higher ADI. High was also associated with a higher likelihood of not showing up for the telehealth appointment.

Overall, only 4% of visits were no-shows and 8% of completed visits were audio-only.

BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT

Similar to prior investigationage, insurance status, and identification as black were also associated with an audio-only visit.

The researchers noted that it was important to consider the use of audio, as some insurers require video for coverage, and there are still questions about quality of audio-only telehealth care.

“Although barriers such as wireless Internet access, the cost of technology, and privacy will require societal changes, health care systems must consider ways to improve access to telehealth. previous work has shown that interventions (eg, a pre-visit phone call) can improve completion of video telehealth,” they wrote.

“Future directions include enablers of electronic medical records that identify patients at risk of telehealth failures, study of the components of ADI and the health literacy partnership, and use of the patient portal.”

THE BIGGEST TREND

Earlier this year, a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation found video-enabled telehealth visits they were lowest among people of color, adults without a high school degree, people with lower incomes, and people without health insurance.

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but another study published this year showed that audio visits can be helpful for patients from marginalized groups. However, more resources are still needed, such as third-party language interpretation services and private workspaces for staff.

Meanwhile, the HHS Office for Civil Rights recently issued guidance in providing audio-only telehealth while being HIPAA compliant. Home passed a bill on Wednesday that would extend telehealth flexibilities under the public health emergency for another two years. The bill includes provisions for audio-only options.

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