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Barriers and facilitators to pediatric telehealth use in English- and Spanish-speaking families: A qualitative study.

Samuels-Kalow ME, Chary AN, Ciccolo G, Apro A, Danaher F, Lambert R, Camargo CA, Zachrison KS. Barriers and facilitators to pediatric telehealth use in English- and Spanish-speaking families: A qualitative study. Journal of telemedicine and telecare. 2022 Jan 24; 1357633X211070725.

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BACKGROUND: With the rapid increase in telehealth use during the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns have been raised about the potential for exacerbating existing healthcare disparities in marginalized populations. While eliminating barriers such as transportation and time constraints, telehealth may introduce barriers related to technology access. With little known about the patient experience accessing telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study seeks to understand the barriers and facilitators to telehealth use as well as interventions that may address them. METHODS: We conducted qualitative interviews with parents of pediatric patients of a primary care clinic in a diverse community during the study period of March-May 2021. The interviews explored barriers and facilitators to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews were balanced across language (Spanish and English) as well as across visit type (in-person vs. telehealth). Recruitment, collection of demographic information, and interviews were conducted by telephone. The conversations were recorded and transcribed. Once thematic saturation was achieved, the data were analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach. RESULTS: Of the 33 participants, 17 (52%) spoke English and 16 (48%) spoke Spanish. A total of 17 (52%) had experienced a telehealth encounter as their first visit during the study period while 16 (48%) had an in-person visit. Five themes were identified: (1) a recognition of differences in technological knowledge and access, (2) situational preferences for telehealth versus in-person visits, (3) avoidance of COVID-19 exposure, (4) convenience, and (5) change over time. English-speaking patients expressed greater ease with and a preference for telehealth, while Spanish-speaking participants expressed more technological difficulty with telehealth and a preference for in-person visits. Suggested interventions included informational tutorials such as videos before the visit, technical support, and providing families with technological devices. CONCLUSION: In this study, we examined patient and family perspectives on pediatric telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementation of the suggested interventions to address barriers to telehealth use is essential to prevent further exacerbation of health disparities already experienced by marginalized populations.

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