Entezarjou A, Sjöbeck M, Midlöv P, Nymberg VM, Vigren L, Labaf A, Jakobsson U, Calling S
BMC Prim Care 23 (-) 4 [2022-01-12; online 2022-01-12]
The use of chat-based digital visits (eVisits) to assess infectious symptoms in primary care is rapidly increasing. The "digi-physical" model of care uses eVisits as the first line of assessment while assuming a certain proportion of patients will inevitably need to be further assessed through urgent physical examination within 48 h. It is unclear to what extent this approach can mitigate physical visits compared to assessing patients directly using office visits. This pre-COVID-19-pandemic observational study followed up "digi-physical" eVisit patients (n = 1188) compared to office visit patients (n = 599) with respiratory or urinary symptoms. Index visits occurred between March 30th 2016 and March 29th 2019. The primary outcome was subsequent physical visits to physicians within two weeks using registry data from Skåne county, Sweden (Region Skånes Vårddatabas, RSVD). No significant differences in subsequent physical visits within two weeks (excluding the first 48 h) were noted following "digi-physical" care compared to office visits (179 (18.0%) vs. 102 (17.6%), P = .854). As part of the "digital-physical" concept, a significantly larger proportion of eVisit patients had a physical visit within 48 h compared to corresponding office visit patients (191 (16.1%) vs. 19 (3.2%), P < .001), with 150 (78.5%) of these eVisit patients recommended some form of follow-up by the eVisit physician. Most eVisit patients (68.9%) with respiratory and urinary symptoms have no subsequent physical visits. Beyond an unavoidable portion of patients requiring urgent physical examination within 48 h, "digi-physical" management of respiratory and urinary symptoms results in comparable subsequent health care utilization compared to office visits. eVisit providers may need to optimize use of resources to minimize the proportion of patients being assessed both digitally and physically within 48 h as part of the "digi-physical" concept. Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT03474887. The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s12875-021-01618-2.