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Perceptions of telehealth among older U.S. adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national survey.

Li KY, Marquis LB, Malani PN, Solway E, Kirch M, Singer D, Kullgren JT, Plegue MA, Buis LR. Perceptions of telehealth among older U.S. adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national survey. Journal of telemedicine and telecare. 2023 Apr 6; 1357633X231166031.

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INTRODUCTION: COVID-19 necessitated a shift from in-person to virtual care for all patients, particularly older adults. It is unknown how older individuals'' views of telehealth changed during this time and how this may affect their future use of telehealth services. METHODS: We used data from a cross-sectional online survey of a nationally representative sample of 2074 U.S. adults ages 50-80 who were participants in the National Poll on Healthy Aging. We performed a descriptive and multivariable analysis of individuals'' perspectives on past and future telehealth visits, sociodemographics, and health status. RESULTS: Before March 2020, 5.8% of respondents had used telehealth, compared to 32.0% by June 2020. Of telehealth users, 36.1% indicated their most recent telehealth visit used audio-only (i.e., without video) technology. In multivariable analysis, those who never used video technology compared to those who were "very comfortable" (average marginal effect (AME) 49%, 95% CI: 36-63), identified as Hispanic (AME 19% vs White, non-Hispanic, 95% CI: 5-32), or were female (AME 9%, 95% CI: 1-17) were more likely to report audio-only use. Concerns remained about the inability to conduct physical exams (75%) and telehealth quality of care (67%), though most (64%) older adults indicated an interest in future telehealth visits. DISCUSSION: Telehealth use increased substantially among older U.S. adults during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, many reported using audio-only telehealth, an important consideration for policymakers and providers. Addressing older adults'' concerns about and barriers to telehealth visits is needed to ensure telehealth does not exacerbate disparities in their care.

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