Epic Research Study shows primary virtual care sufficient, without in person requirement.
In a study released in Epic Research, it was found that an in-person follow-up visit was rarely required following primary care-related telehealth consultations. This discovery illustrates the effectiveness of virtual treatment, and its feasibility as an option for individuals who are unable to or prefer not to avail of in person appointments .
Prior to the study, there were several concerning factors in regard to the safety and effectiveness of telehealth without the utilization of an in-person appointment following the telehealth appointment. This is understandable due to the short timeframe in which remote healthcare emerged in 2020, with the covid-19 pandemic. The new Epic study, however, indicated that telehealth primary care sessions did not often necessitate in-person follow-up appointment within the three months following the remote one. The research was conducted between between the beginning of the Pandemic, in March of 2020, and October two year following. In this time, over eighteen million telehealth visits for primary care were examined by Epic. The information was derived using Cosmos, a HIPAA-defined restricted dataset which contains nearly 200 million patients across 190 healthcare entities in the United States, as well as Lebanon who avail of Epic’s EHR. The following forms of healthcare delivery were included in the remote telehealth appointments:
- Family medicine
- general internal medicine
- pediatric primary care
Epic researchers evaluated whether in-person follow-up visits in the same primary care specialty took place within 90 days of the telehealth appointment. Additionally, researchers attempted to correlate a patient’s insurance status to a possible in-person follow-up care as a secondary examination.
In regard to a three-month follow-up appointment delivered in person, researchers found that it was unnecessary, in the same primary care specialty in sixty one percent of. This varied in their next aspect of research, where it was found that pediatric primary care visits required in person appointments in nearly half of cases (forty six percent). When virtual appointments took place for either internal medicine or family medicine, follow-ups were necessary at a rate of thirty seven percent and forty percent.
When researchers examined insurance data, they uncovered that following a primary care telehealth appointment, over half of both Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries did not take part in an in-person follow-up. This became approximately one quarter of patients, when examining individuals, who paid for their own care.
Epic researchers commented on the possible inaccuracy of their findings due to unrelated follow up appointments: ‘Primary care physicians treat a wide variety of conditions, so the subsequent in-person visit might not have been related to the reason for the telehealth visit. For example, a telehealth visit for an upper respiratory infection wouldn’t affect whether a patient has a normal wellness exam scheduled in the next three months, yet in our study that would be counted as having had in-person follow-up.’