Study shows patients may still prefer telehealth after COVID-19

More than half of psychiatric patients may prefer telehealth to in-person care even after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by the University of Michigan.

Michigan’s academic medical center carried out the study over summer. They surveyed 244 patients, or parents of patients, who had in-person appointments scheduled in the opening weeks of the pandemic and then had to adjust to telehealth, on their experiences with the service.

 

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Almost all members of the study reacted positively to telehealth, with the majority preferring video chats to phone calls with their health care provider. Patients also overwhelmingly reported that the virtual visits went better than they expected. The surveys also determined that a majority of participants would like to continue using telehealth instead of in-person care in the future.

“We went from not getting much traction with telepsychiatry, and encountering a lot of reluctance among providers and patients, to having nearly all our care delivered virtually, and offering help to those who need it,” said Jennifer Severe, M.D, who led the study. “data suggest an opportunity to turn the experience of the pandemic into an opportunity to improve access to mental health care and improve the continuity of care.”

Severe notes that there may be issues regarding health insurance coverage with telehealth. While standard appointments are often covered, a quick phone call between a patient and a doctor may not. This leaves a potential problem for providers to solve in the future if telehealth remains the norm. The researcher also wants to do future research on how socio-economic factors affect a patient’s opinion on telehealth.