OBJECTIVE: To investigate factors associated with the use of telehealth by general practitioners (GPs) during COVID-19 .
DESIGN: A nationally representative longitudinal survey study of Australian doctors analysed using regression analysis .
SETTING: General practice in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic .
PARTICIPANTS: 448 GPs who completed both the 11th wave (2018-2019) of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) Survey and the MABEL COVID-19 Special Online Survey (May 2020). OUTCOME MEASURES: Proportion of all consultations delivered via telephone (audio) or video (audiovisual); proportion of telehealth consultations delivered via video .
RESULTS : 46.1% of GP services were provided using telehealth in early May 2020, with 6.4% of all telehealth consultations delivered via video . Higher proportions of telehealth consultations were observed in GPs in larger practices compared with solo GPs: between +0.21 (95% CI +0.07 to +0.35) and +0.28 (95% CI +0.13 to +0.44). Greater proportions of telehealth consultations were delivered through video for GPs with appropriate infrastructure and for GPs with more complex patients: +0.10 (95% CI +0.04 to +0.16) and +0.04 (95% CI +0.00 to +0.08), respectively . Lower proportions of telehealth consultations were delivered via video for GPs over 55 years old compared with GPs under 35 years old: between -0.08 (95% CI -0.02 to -0.15) and -0.15 (95% CI -0.07 to -0.22), and for GPs in postcodes with a higher proportion of patients over 65 years old: -0.005 (95% CI -0.001 to -0.008) for each percentage point increase in the population over 65 years old .
CONCLUSIONS: GP characteristics are strongly associated with patterns of telehealth use in clinical work . Infrastructure support and relative pricing of different consultation modes may be useful policy instruments to encourage GPs to deliver care by the most appropriate method.
MeSH: Adult, Aged, Australia, COVID-19, Female, General Practitioners, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Pandemics, Practice Patterns, Physicians', statistics & numerical data, Telemedicine, statistics & numerical data
Index: health economics, health policy, organisation of health services