The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in virtual care (VC) across outpatient specialties, but little is known regarding provider acceptance of VC.
The objective of this study was to assess provider perceptions of the quality, efficiency, and challenges of VC versus in-person care with masks.
This was a voluntary survey.
Mental health (MH), primary care, medical specialty, and surgical specialty providers across the 8 VA New England Healthcare System medical centers.
Provider ratings of: (1) quality and efficiency of VC (phone and video telehealth) compared with in-person care with masks; (2) challenges of VC; and (3) percentage of patients that providers are comfortable seeing via VC in the future.
The sample included 998 respondents (49.8% MH, 20.6% primary care, 20.4% medical specialty, 9.1% surgical specialty; 61% response rate). Most providers rated VC as equivalent to or higher in quality and efficiency compared with in-person care with masks. Quality ratings were significantly higher for video versus phone (χ2=61.4, P<0.0001), but efficiency ratings did not differ significantly. Ratings varied across specialties (highest in MH, lowest in SS; all χ2s>24.1, Ps<0.001). Inability to conduct a physical examination and patient technical difficulties were significant challenges. MH providers were comfortable seeing a larger proportion of patients virtually compared with the other specialties (all χ2s>12.2, Ps<0.01).
Broad provider support for VC was stratified across specialties, with the highest ratings in MH and lowest ratings in SS. Findings will inform the improvement of VC processes and the planning of health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.