New Study Suggests Telehealth May Not be the Best for Follow-up Care

02 Nov, 2022 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – While statistics showed that telehealth visits during the pandemic accounted for as much as 69 percent of all doctor’s visits, some studies suggested that not all patients and providers had the same outlook or utilized telehealth in the same way. Additionally, a CMS audit from earlier this year, reflected vast differences in how providers billed for telehealth charges, finding in some cases large numbers of errors resulting in over billed claims.

Many studies have touted the benefits of telehealth, such as no noted increases in utilization of primary care and reduction of ED visits by 60 percent. Additionally, some analyses showed that visit times were longer for patients, indicating a possible improvement of quality. However, an ever-increasing amount of new studies are questioning the full benefits of telehealth. For instance, one study from researchers at the University of Michigan found an association between telehealth and increased rates of acute care visits for primary health specialists.

Additionally, a brand new study published this week in JAMA Network Open by from researchers at UCLA, suggests telehealth may not be the best route for some patients, and in some cases may even lead to more visits and hospitalization.

The researchers asked the pointed question of whether the ED readmission rates were higher for those patients that utilized a telehealth follow up visit after discharge as opposed to an in person visit. Data was analyzed for around 17,000 visits, comprised from nearly 13,000 patients at 2 area hospitals. Follow up criteria was a follow up visit within 14 days of discharge, either in person or via telehealth. The data range for visits spanned from April 1,2020 through September 30,2021.

The researchers found that the patients who used telehealth means to follow up after their ED discharge were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than those patients that had an in person follow up visit. For those patients that followed up in person, 16 percent returned to the ED and 4 percent were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. By comparison, for those that completed their follow up visit virtually, 18 percent of those patients returned to the ED and 5 percent were readmitted.

The researchers speculated that one of the potential contributors could be the limits in the ability to thoroughly examine the patient. This in turn effects the referral threshold, but also impacts quality of communication with the patient and the ability to intervene appropriately. Remote location was also listed as potential factor as those that followed up via telehealth visits lived farther from the ED than those that follow up with in-person visits.





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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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