Common concerns about telemedicine don’t hold up to scrutiny, according to a new study that highlights telemedicine’s effectiveness.

The paper is one of two studies on telemedicine published in NEJM Catalyst. The second study demonstrates the success of an effort to provide mental health services to nursing homes via a hybrid model that includes telemedicine.

“For patients, the message is clear and reassuring: Telemedicine is an effective and efficient way of receiving many kinds of health care,” says Kathleen Fear, lead author of the first paper and and director of data and analytics at the University of Rorchester Health Lab.

“Especially for those with transportation challenges, it is a service that really fills a gap—and vitally, it does not compromise the quality of the care that patients receive.”

For the first study, Fear and colleagues used data generated in part by the COVID pandemic, when health care providers across the nation rapidly expanded their telemedicine services, to examine three specific concerns about telemedicine:

  • That it will reduce access to care for the most vulnerable patients who may be unable to access digital services.
  • That reimbursing providers for telemedicine services at the same rate as traditional services will encourage telemedicine overuse.
  • That telemedicine is not an effective way to provide care.

“We really dug into the data, and it disproved all three concerns, which is really quite exciting,” Fear says. “Not only did our most vulnerable patients not get left behind—they were among those engaging the most with, and benefitting the most from, telemedicine services.

“We did not see worse outcomes or increased costs, or patients needing an increased amount of in-person follow up. Nor did we find evidence of overuse. This is good care, and it is equitable care for vulnerable populations.”

Read the full article about the effectiveness of telemedicine by Jim Miller at Futurity.