May 11, 2021

Disparities persisted as orthopedic surgery patients shifted to telemedicine

Editor's Note

This study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, finds that disparities in access to orthopedic care persisted as orthopedic surgical patients were shifted to telemedicine during COVID-19.

The researchers analyzed nearly 2,000 orthopedic patients receiving care via telemedicine from March to May 2020, and compared them to about 10,000 orthopedic patients who had in-person visits from March to May 2019.

Disparities remained significant in three areas:

  • Race/ethnicity. The odds of a Hispanic patient being seen via telemedicine during COVID-19 was 41% lower than that of a White patient, and the odds of an Asian patient being seen was 27% lower.
  • Primary language. Patients whose primary language was not English or Spanish had 66% lower odds of having a telemedicine visit.
  • Insurance status. The odds of a patient on Medicaid receiving a telemedicine evaluation was 15% lower than that of a patient who was privately insured.

Though telemedicine provides great opportunity for increased access and more efficient and higher quality care programs, it also brings a great responsibility to ensure a future with health equity, the researchers say.


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