A Qualitative Study of Primary Care Physicians’ Experiences With Telemedicine During COVID-19.

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Primary care practices rapidly adopted telemedicine visits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but information on physician perspectives about these visits is lacking.Fifteen semistructured interviews with practicing primary care physicians and physicians-in-training from a Southern California academic health system and group-model health maintenance organization were conducted to assess physician perspectives regarding the benefits and challenges of telemedicine.Physicians indicated that telemedicine improved patient access to care by providing greater convenience, although some expressed concern that certain groups of vulnerable patients were unable to navigate or did not possess the technology required to participate in telemedicine visits. Physicians noted that telemedicine visits offered more time for patient counseling, opportunities for better medication reconciliations, and the ability to see and evaluate patient home environments and connect with patient families. Challenges existed when visits required a physical examination. Physicians were very concerned about the loss of personal connections and touch, which they believed diminished expected rituals that typically strengthen physician-patient relationships. Physicians also observed that careful consideration to physician workflows may be needed to avoid physician burnout.Physicians reported that telemedicine visits offer new opportunities to improve the quality of patient care but noted changes to their interactions with patients. Many of these changes are positive, but it remains to be seen whether others such as lack of physical examination and loss of physical presence and touch adversely influence provider-patient communication, patient willingness to disclose concerns that may affect their care, and, ultimately, patient health outcomes.

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Authors: Teresita Gomez, Yohualli B Anaya, Kevin J Shih, Derjung M Tarn