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How to best utilize telemedicine for outpatient allergy/immunology evaluations

Published online: May 1, 2021

Although telemedicine has been available for decades, and previous studies have shown patient satisfaction with these encounters, widespread telemedicine adoption for allergy/immunology outpatient evaluations has been limited. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic necessitated a rapid transition from in-person evaluations to remote delivery of care, including both video and telephone visits. Over time, as medical practices have resumed in-person evaluations, many allergy/immunology practices have elected to continue to offer video and telephone visits for remote evaluations.

In The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Mustafa et al compared patient and provider satisfaction among different encounter types, along with whether patient characteristics influenced patient satisfaction, perception of evaluation completeness, and choice of future encounter type. All patients evaluated by the participating physicians by any encounter modality were tracked, and patients were contacted regarding their visit satisfaction within 7 days of their visit with standardized questions.

There were 447 encounters, with 303 (67.8%) in-person, 98 (21.9%) video, and 46 (10.3%) telephone. Patient satisfaction data was obtained from 251 patients. There was similar patient satisfaction among all encounter modalities. Both patients and physicians were more likely to deem an in-person encounter as complete. Physicians reported an in-person encounter was most important for evaluation of food allergy and chronic rhinitis, whereas patients felt in-person encounters were most essential for food allergy. The most commonly cited reason that patients preferred an in-person encounter was to have a physical exam. Patients almost equally cited that “in-person care is better for serious conditions,” and “in-person care allows for a more personal interaction and more questions.” The most common reasons cited for utilizing a video or telephone encounter were “routine follow up or simple visit,” and “increased convenience.”

The study by Mustafa et al evaluating patient satisfaction by encounter modality showed that patients reported similar satisfaction with in-person, video, and telephone encounters. New patient encounters, and evaluations for chronic rhinitis and food allergy are more likely to call for an in-person evaluation. Patients thought that video or telephone encounters were best utilized to improve convenience and for routine follow up. These findings can help allergy/immunology practices optimize utilization of remote evaluation after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

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