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Organizational and External Factors Associated with Video Telehealth Use in the Veterans Health Administration Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Jacobs J, Ferguson JM, Van Campen J, Yefimova M, Greene L, Heyworth L, Zulman DM. Organizational and External Factors Associated with Video Telehealth Use in the Veterans Health Administration Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association. 2022 Feb 1; 28(2):199-211.

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Abstract:

To identify organizational and external factors associated with medical center video telehealth uptake (i.e., the proportion of patients using telemedicine) before and early in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. : We conducted a retrospective, observational study using cross-sectional data for all 139 U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs). We used logistic regression analyses to identify factors that predicted whether a VAMC was in the top quartile of VA Video Connect (VVC) telehealth uptake for primary care and mental health care. : All 139 VAMCs increased their VVC uptake at least 2-fold early in the pandemic, with most increasing uptake between 5- and 10-fold. Pre-COVID-19, higher VVC uptake in primary care was weakly and positively associated with having more high-risk patients, negatively associated with having more long-distance patients, and positively associated with the prior fiscal year's VVC uptake. During COVID-19, the positive association with high-risk patients and the negative association with long-distance patients strengthened, while weaker broadband coverage was negatively associated with VVC uptake. For mental health care, having more long-distance patients was positively associated with higher VVC uptake pre-COVID-19, but this relationship reversed during COVID-19. Despite the marked increase in VVC uptake early in the COVID-19 pandemic, significant VAMC-level variation indicates that VVC adoption was more difficult for some medical centers, particularly those with poorer broadband coverage and less prior VVC experience. These findings highlight opportunities for medical centers, VA Central Office, and other federal entities to ensure equitable access to video telehealth.





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