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Haun JN, Panaite V, Cotner BA, Melillo C, Venkatachalam HH, Fowler CA, Lapcevic W, Alman AC, French DD, Zilka B, Messina W. Primary care virtual resource use prior and post COVID-19 pandemic onset. BMC health services research. 2022 Nov 18; 22(1):1370.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for rapid uptake of virtual care through the use of virtual health resources (VHR). In the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System, virtual care has been critical to maintaining healthcare access for patients during COVID-19. In the current study we describe primary care patient aligned care team (PACT) VHR use patterns within one VA medical center (i.e., hospital facility and five community-based outpatient clinics) pre- and post-COVID-19 onset. METHODS: VHR provider and patient use data from 106 individual PACTs were extracted monthly between September 2019 to September 2020. Data were extracted from VHA web-based project application and tracking databases. Using longitudinal data, mixed effect models were used to compare pre- and post-COVID onset slopes. RESULTS: Findings highlight an increase in patient users of secure messaging (SM) and telehealth. The rate of utilization among these patients increased for SM but not for telehealth visits or online prescription refill (RxRefill) use. Finally, VetLink Kiosk check ins that are done at in person visits, diminished abruptly after COVID-19 onset. CONCLUSIONS: These data provide a baseline of VHR use at the PACT level after the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and can inform healthcare delivery changes within the VA systems over time. Moreover, this project produced a data extraction blueprint, that is the first of its kind to track VA VHR use leveraging secondary data sources.