Call your Doctor: Prospective Description Study of Telemedicine during the First COVID-19 Outbreak in a Swiss Primary Care Practice

Author(s): Joëlle Suillot, Sophie Zuercher, Lydie Zufferey, Julien Sagez

Background: Telemedicine is a healthcare assistance method which has been promoted during the COVID-19 pandemic for the management of patients. The aim of this study is to quantify the type of request that primary care physicians are experiencing, as well as the healthcare assistance modalities and ultimately, how many physical consultations are necessary.

Methods: We conducted a prospective, descriptive study in a primary care practice in Switzerland on telephone consultations related to COVID-19. The data collected included the reasons for the call, symptoms, healthcare assistance modalities and follow-up. The categorical variables are expressed as percentages of the total cases or groups.

Results: We included 200 calls corresponding to 113 patients. The majority of patients (76.1%) were taken care of solely through telemedicine. The physical consultations were due to the need: for a swab test (12.4%), for a somatic assessment at the practice (9.7%) and for an emergency services consultation (1.8%). In 64.6% of cases, patient assistance required only one phone call. Calls lasted 7.85 minutes on average and were more frequent on Mondays (24%) and Fridays (18.5%). Calls led to the prescription of medication in 12.5% of cases, of a bronchodilator in 3% of cases and of an antibiotic in 0.5% of cases.

Conclusion: A rigorous telephone follow-up strategy carried out by primary care physicians requires few physical consultations in patients showing symptoms of COVID-19.

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