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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Telemedicine and e-Health, Volume 25, Issue 7, July 2019, Pages 599-603.

The published version is available at Copyright © Halpren-Ruder et al.


Background: Value enhancing telehealth (TH) lacks a robust body of formal clinically focused quality assessment studies. Innovations such as telehealth must always demonstrate that it preserves or hopefully advances quality. Introduction: We sought to determine whether adherence to the evidence-based Choosing Wisely (CW) recommendations (antibiotic stewardship) for acute sinusitis differs for encounters through direct-to-consumer (DTC) telemedicine verses "in-person" care in an emergency department (ED) or an urgent care (UC) center.

Materials and Methods: Study design was a retrospective review. Patients with a symptom complex consistent with acute sinusitis treated through DTC were matched with ED and UC patients, based upon time of visit. Charts were reviewed to determine patient characteristics, chief complaint, final diagnosis, presence or absence of criteria within the CW guidelines, and whether or not antibiotics were prescribed. The main outcome was adherence to the CW campaign recommendations.

Results: A total of 570 visits were studied: 190 DTC, 190 ED, and 190 UC visits. The predominant chief complaints were upper respiratory infection (36%), sore throat (25%), and sinusitis (18%). Overall, there was a 67% (95% CI 62.3-71.7) adherence rate with the CW guidelines for sinusitis: DTC visits (71%), ED visits (68%), and UC visits (61%). There was a nonsignificant difference (p = 0.29) in adherence to CW guidelines based upon type of visit (DTC, UC, and ED).

Discussion: The challenge is to demonstrate whether or not DTC TH compromises quality.

Conclusion: In this study, DTC visits were associated with at least as good an adherence to the CW campaign recommendations as emergency medicine (EM) and UC in-person visits.

© Daniel Halpren-Ruder et al.

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