Recommendations for virtual care in primary care practices: A survey of patients across Ontario, Canada
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Context: The onset of COVID-19 has required the rapid adoption of virtual services in primary care (PC) practices, and virtual care delivery is likely to continue to some extent post-pandemic. Objective: To understand patient experience with synchronous virtual (telephone (Tel)/Video) appointments and elicit recommendations for its future use. Design: Mixed method, including patient survey co-developed with stakeholders and implemented online Feb-Mar 2021 with large promotional efforts through social media, patient and caregiver organizations, and other networks. We report on the survey results. Eligibility: 1+ virtual encounter in PC. Outcome measures: A) Patient experience scale (12/17 questions for Tel/Video) covering 4 sub-dimensions; B) Access related questions. Questions had 5-point Likert scale items (strongly disagree (-2) to strongly agree (+2)) and were converted into percentage (potential range -100%, +100%) Setting : Ontario, Canada which offers universal coverage for PC visits with no co-payment. Results: 534 eligible respondents (402/18/114 had Tel/Video/both): Females (78%), < 55 years (61%), white (75%), employed (61%), bachelor's degree (74%), family income > 100k (52%). Encounters evaluated were with family physicians (vs other health professionals) for 75%/46% of Tel/Video encounters. A) Patient Experience (Tel/Video) overall score: 75%/78%; Sub-dimensions: technology: 92%/84%, patient-provider relationship: 83%/86%, quality of care: 66%/66%, whole-person care: 43%/53%. Factors associated with a statistically significant(*) > 10% higher overall score in tel and/or video were: non-females: (8%*/14%*), French speaking (13%*/16%*), patient-provider relationship >1 year (16%*/7%), provider age < 50 (5%/15%*), having the choice of appointment time (15%*/21%*). Wanting to show problem to the provider was associated with a lower scores (-23%*/NA). B) Access Respondents overwhelmingly reported that Tel/Video visits reduced time (97%/97%), costs (81%/85%), and was more convenient (91%/91%). The majority wanted Tel (69%) and Video (71%) visits at least as often as in person visits post-covid. Only 5% did not want any future virtual care. Conclusions: Patient experience was largely positive and is influenced by patient/provider factors. Patients and providers may benefit from support/training to optimize care experience. We are now evaluating whether the reasons for visits influences care experience.