The following is a summary of “The Impact of Telehealth on Primary Care Physician Panel Sizes: A Modeling Study” published in the October 2022 issue of Family Medicine by Green et al.

Most studies of telehealth’s efficacy as an alternative to in-person care have focused on its expansion, its effect on access, and the satisfaction of both doctors and patients. However, the potential for telehealth to dramatically boost physician capacity by minimizing non-value-adding tasks and patient no-shows is an important problem that needs to receive more attention. In this post, we delve into this topic. 

Researchers estimate visit durations and no-show rates for tele-visits using data from the electronic health records of 2 healthcare systems and information acquired from focus groups with family medicine physicians. Investigators use these in a simulation model to learn how to expand patient panels via telemedicine without compromising on accessibility. Their research demonstrates that tele-visits cut down on the amount of time doctors spend on administrative tasks and the number of no-shows from patients. 

Use of tele-visits at current levels may translate into more than a 10% increase in patient panel sizes, assuming a modest reduction in visit durations and no-shows, and as much as a 30% increase assuming that half of all visits could be effectively conducted virtually and result in a greater reduction in visit durations and no-shows. Based on the results of their research, primary care physicians may treat many more patients without compromising quality of care by adopting telehealth for many regular sessions.