ED Telehealth Follow-Up May Increase Subsequent Health Care Utilization

Clinician using a computer while talking to a patient with a headset.
Clinician using a computer while talking to a patient with a headset.
Telehealth follow-up consultations following an ED visit are associated with more repeat ED visits and more return hospital admissions.

HealthDay News — Telehealth follow-up consultations following an emergency department visit are associated with more repeat emergency department visits and more return hospital admissions versus in-person follow-ups, according to a study published online Oct. 25 in JAMA Network Open.

Vivek V. Shah, M.D., from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, and colleagues examined follow-up among 12,848 adult patients who presented to either of two in-system emergency departments of a single integrated, urban academic health system (16,987 encounters).

The researchers reported that 70 percent of adults used in-person follow-up and 30 percent used telehealth follow-up, which was associated with increased rates of emergency department returns (28.3 more returns per 1,000 encounters) and hospitalizations (10.6 more hospitalizations per 1,000 encounters) versus in-person follow-up. Findings persisted even after adjusting for presentation acuity, comorbidities, and sociodemographic factors.

“While telehealth is a relatively new modality of care that allows patients more timely and increased access to care, our study found [that] even when adjusting for time to follow-up, post-follow-up health care utilization was still higher for patients with telehealth visits,” the authors write. “The use of telehealth warrants further evaluation to examine its effectiveness as a modality for continuing care after an initial emergency department presentation for acute illness.”

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