Patient Perspectives: Navigating Telemedicine Throughout the Pandemic

Maintaining your health care visits can often feel like a full-time job – the trip to and from, the parking, the waiting, the paperwork, the missed school and work. And during these unprecedented times, it can be extremely taxing and hazardous as the threat of COVID-19 continues to grow. Many patients in the arthritis community have been adding telemedicine visits with their health care providers into their routines to mitigate these stresses.

To learn more, the Arthritis Foundation surveyed more than 3,300 patients about their experience of care throughout the pandemic and how telemedicine has become a tool in accessing care. Read on to see what they said. Then listen to the latest episode of the Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast, in which a rheumatologist talks to hosts Rebecca and Julie about how telemedicine can make health care visits convenient and safe – all from the comfort and security of your own home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how people with arthritis manage their care:

  1. 25% of patients surveyed indicated that they have canceled or skipped health care provider appointments during the pandemic.
  2. 16% of patient respondents reported that they have canceled or skipped lab work appointments due to the pandemic.
  3. More than 50% of patients that reported canceling an in-person appointment with their health care provider said they did so due to their concern of contracting COVID-19.

In considering telemedicine, respondents felt that virtual visits offered potential benefits for their access to care:

  1. 70% of these respondents reported that the absence of travel time and transportation needs were perceived benefits.
  2. 49% said less wait time during their appointment was appealing.
  3. 35% indicated that more time with health care providers was a perceived benefit.

Patients reported positive experiences with their provider during their telemedicine visits:

  1. 68% of them surveyed indicated that their health care provider addressed their concerns during their telemedicine appointment.
  2. 64% reported that their provider listened closely during the visit.
  3. 39% indicated it was easy to build rapport with their provider virtually.

Some patients did not feel telemedicine visits in rheumatology would be as effective as in-person visits:

  1. 60% who would not consider a virtual appointment indicated that their reason was the need for direct physical touch during examination.
  2. 56% who reported their telemedicine visit was less effective than in-person visits said the primary reason was the provider’s inability to perform a physical exam during a virtual visit.
  3. 62% indicated they prefer face-to-face interactions, so they would not consider telemedicine appointments.

A small portion of our patient respondents reported that telemedicine appointments offered a better experience of care than a traditional in-person visit:

  1. 51% of these said they got to spend more time with their health care provider during the visit.
  2. 81% reported their virtual visit was more effective because they did not have to commute to the appointment.
  3. 72% said they waited less time during the appointment, and 49% said they waited less overall time to get an appointment.

At the Arthritis Foundation, our priority is making sure you get the care that you need. If you and your family are considering telemedicine, we encourage you to listen to the latest episode of the Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast. In this episode, our hosts interview guest expert Daniel Albert, MD, a rheumatologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, who has been using telemedicine with his pediatric and adult patients for years. He shares his insights on how to make this tool of modern medicine work for you. Tune in today!




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