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University of Pennsylvania Study Shows Telemedicine Eliminates Historical Racial Gap in Aftercare Follow-Ups

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According to a study conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine seems to effectively eliminate the historical racial gap in show rates to follow-up appointments after hospitalizations.

The researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have analyzed data from 2019-2021 showing that attendance or “show” rates at follow-up appointments after hospitalization climbed among Black patients from 52 to 70 percent when telemedicine became one of the main modes for primary care visits.

To quote from

This was comparable to White patients, whose visit completion rates at primary care follow-up appointments were 67 percent by the middle of 2020. The boost the researchers documented effectively eliminated the historical racial gap in show rates to follow-up appointments.

“We do have data that there are racial inequities in geographic access to primary care providers,” notes Eric Bressman, a fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program and an internist at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. “That is one factor among many that may influence whether a patient is able to make it to a scheduled appointment. It is also one of the ways in which telemedicine might level the playing field in terms of accessing primary care services.”

The Journal of General Internal Medicine published the full study titled, “Association of Telemedicine with Primary Care Appointment Access After Hospital Discharge.” To access it, click  here.

Regardless of race, some overall benefits were seen after June 2020. The time between discharge and the first primary care appointment follow-up fell by a day-and-a-half when the appointment was held via telemedicine. Completion rates of the follow-up appointments were 22 percent higher via telemedicine, and the rate of follow-up within a week of hospitalization was 8 percent higher, too.

Bressman and his fellow researchers believe that such stark findings warrant further exploration and availability of telemedicine. While it came about amid a crisis, incorporating it into regular, day-to-day operations appears to have significant value.

“While there are evolving issues around quality, payment, and regulatory policy, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that telemedicine was and can continue to be a vital access point for many people,” Bressman said. “If it can promote access and even ameliorate disparities, then it is worth continuing to invest in.”

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Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $496 million awarded in the 2020 fiscal year.

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