According to research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, completed primary care visits at Penn Medicine rose from approximately 60 percent among Black patients before the arrival of COVID-19 to over 80 percent in 2020. By comparison, non-Black patients visit completion rate was in the 70 percent range prior to COVID-19, then was also over 80 percent in 2020. Thus, the equity gap of at least 10 percent was erased at Penn Medicine practices after the arrival of the pandemic, when telemedicine was widely adopted.

Additionally, data showed that Black patients took part in telemedicine much more often than non-Black patients. About 33 percent of Black patients’ 2020 appointments were completed via telemedicine, compared to 25 percent for non-Black patients.

In 2019, completed telemedicine appointments were only in the double digits among the million total visits studied. In 2020, these telemedicine appointments skyrocketed into the six-figure range.

Krisda Chaiyachati, MD – the study’s senior author, assistant professor Medicine at Penn Medicine and the physician lead for Value-based Care and Innovation at Verily – commented, “As the healthcare sector – policymakers, payers, providers, and patients – continue to develop the role telemedicine may play in health care’s future, understanding how it can be a mechanism for improving equity is an important dimension to consider.”