FRIDAY, Jan. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — There was increased use of telemedicine for surgical consults among some historically underrepresented patient groups during the second phase of the pandemic, according to a study published in the February issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Chukwuma N. Eruchalu, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined the modality for new visits within the Division of General & Gastrointestinal Surgery occurring March 24 to June 23, 2020 (Phase I, Massachusetts Public Health Emergency) and June 24 to Dec. 31, 2020 (Phase II, relaxation of restrictions on health care operations).

The researchers identified 347 in-person and 638 virtual completed visits during Phase I. There were no significant differences in virtual compared with in-person visit use across racial/ethnic or insurance groups. Hispanic patients were less likely to have video versus audio-only visits than White patients (odds ratio [OR], 0.46). During Phase II, the researchers identified 2,922 in-person and 1,001 virtual completed visits. Black patients (OR, 1.52) were more likely to have virtual visits than White patients. There were no significant differences observed across insurance types, and among patients using virtual visits, race/ethnicity and insurance type were not significant predictors of video use.

“We can use digital health to reach populations that have historically not had optimal access to our health care system,” a coauthor said in a statement. “We are doing our best to meet patients where they are, and digital tools may help us bridge that gap, if we use them responsibly.”

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