Endocrine Society Experts Recommend Individualized Approach to Use of Telehealth  

Policy perspective explores factors to maximize effectiveness of telehealth

Following rapid growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits are expected to remain an important part of endocrine care, according to a new Endocrine Society policy perspective published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  

Health care providers need to consider a variety of factors when determining which type of visit best serves an individual patient’s needs at a given moment. For many patients, scheduling a mixture of in-person and telehealth visits can make medical care more convenient and effective.

“Clinicians will need to draw upon their own knowledge of each patient and their clinical goals to decide when to incorporate telehealth into their care,” says Varsha G. Vimalananda, MD, MPH, of VA Bedford Healthcare System in Bedford, Mass., and Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, Mass. She is the policy perspective’s first author. “Telehealth visits can be considered as an option each time we schedule an appointment. Patient preference should be elicited, and decisions guided by weighing the factors we describe in the perspective piece.”

The policy perspective explores five aspects of care that determine when telehealth is appropriate, including:

  • Clinical factors, including whether an in-person physical exam or assessment is needed;
  • Patient factors, such as geographic distance to the clinic, access to transportation, work and family obligations, and comfort level with technology;
  • The patient-clinician relationship;
  • The clinician’s physical surroundings and personal circumstances; and
  • Availability of infrastructure needed to provide quality telehealth services.

Telehealth can be a valuable component of an individualized care plan. Health care providers and patients should discuss how telehealth fits into care as they develop a care plan together, the policy perspective recommended.

Telehealth can play an important role in reducing disparities in health care access. Telehealth appointments can make it easier for patients facing barriers such as travel, cost, mobility, mental health, and work or caregiver responsibilities to access the medical care they need.

Other authors of this study include: Juan P. Brito, M.D., M.S., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; Leslie A. Eiland, M.D., of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb.; Rayhan A. Lal, M.D., of Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.; Spyridoula Maraka, M.D., M.S., of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Ark., VA Central Arkansas Healthcare System, Little Rock, Ark., and the Mayo Clinic; Marie E. McDonnell, M.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.; Radhika Narla, M.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash., and VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, Wash.; Mara Y. Roth, M.D., of the University of Washington; and Stephanie S. Crossen, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, Calif.

The manuscript, “Appropriate Use of Telehealth Visits in Endocrinology: Perspective Statement of the Endocrine Society,” was published online, ahead of print.