Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Utilization of Telehealth in Patients with Liver Disease During COVID-19.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in a rapid expansion of telehealth services in hepatology. However, known racial and socioeconomic disparities in internet access potentially translate into barriers for the use of telehealth, particularly video technology. The specific aim of this study was to determine if disparities in race or socioeconomic status exist among patients utilizing telehealth visits during COVID-19. METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study of all adult patients evaluated in hepatology clinics at Duke University Health System. Visit attempts from a pre-COVID baseline period (January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020; n = 3328) were compared to COVID period (April 1, 2020 through May 30, 2020; n = 3771). RESULTS: On multinomial regression modeling, increasing age was associated with higher odds of a phone or incomplete visit (canceled, no-show, or rescheduled after May 30,2020), and non-Hispanic Black race was associated with nearly twice the odds of completing a phone visit instead of video visit, compared to non-Hispanic White patients. Compared to private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare were associated with increased odds of completing a telephone visit, and Medicaid was associated with increased odds of incomplete visits. Being single or previously married (separated, divorced, widowed) was associated with increased odds of completing a phone compared to video visit compared to being married. CONCLUSIONS: Though liver telehealth has expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, disparities in overall use and suboptimal use (phone versus video) remain for vulnerable populations including those that are older, non-Hispanic Black, or have Medicare/Medicaid health insurance.
Wegermann, K; Wilder, JM; Parish, A; Niedzwiecki, D; Gellad, ZF; Muir, AJ; Patel, YA
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