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Primary care doctors are still using telemedicine


New study examines role of individual physician in deciding whether visit will be in-person or remote

Man looking at doctor on tablet ©


While telemedicine use has waned since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many primary care physicians are still using it for a substantial portion of their primary care visits.

That finding emerges from a new study designed to measure variations in telemedicine provision among physicians and the extent to which that variation is explainable by the preferences of individual doctors.

The study’s authors analyzed about 2.4 million adult primary care visits among 761,000 patients with 729 doctors at three major hospital systems from March 2020 through the end of 2021. They found substantial variation in telemedicine provision among the physicians in the study, but about one-third (237) continued providing relatively high rates of telemedicine despite a general decline in its use over the period of the study.

The results also showed that the visit physician accounted for 7.7% of variation in telemedicine use, while 7.8% was due to when the visit occurred (i.e., which wave of the pandemic) and 7.6% by the evaluation and management level of the visit. Patient age, gender, race and ethnicity, insurance type, number of diagnoses and new patient status together accounted for 2.3% of the variation. The largest determining factor, site, accounted for 16.3% of the variation.

The authors note that while some aspects of their findings and those of other studies point to diminishing physician use of telemedicine, their study “highlights a nontrivial share of physicians…exhibit persistently high rates of telemedicine use, suggesting generous telemedicine provision may be a differentiator for these physicians.”

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