Differences in telemedicine, emergency department, and hospital utilization among nonelderly adults with limited english proficiency post-COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional analysis


Background:The unprecedented use of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to examine its uptake among individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP).

Objective:To assess telemedicine use among nonelderly adults with LEP and the association between use of telehealth and emergency department (ED) and hospital visits.

Design:Cross-sectional study using the National Health Interview Survey (July 2020-December 2021) PARTICIPANTS: Adults (18-64 years), with LEP (N=1488) or English proficiency (EP) (N=25,873) MAIN MEASURES: Telemedicine, ED visits, and hospital visits in the past 12 months. We used multivariate logistic regression to assess (1) the association of English proficiency on having telemedicine visits; and (2) the association of English proficiency and telemedicine visits on having ED and hospital visits.

Key results:Between July 2020 and December 2021, 22% of adults with LEP had a telemedicine visit compared to 35% of adults with EP. After controlling for predisposing, enabling, and need factors, adults with LEP had 20% lower odds of having a telemedicine visit than adults with EP (p=0.02). While English proficiency was not associated with ED or hospital visits during this time, adults with telemedicine visits had significantly greater odds of having any ED (aOR: 1.80, p

Conclusions:While telemedicine use increased overall during the COVID-19 pandemic, its use remained much less likely among adults with LEP. Interventions targeting structural barriers are needed to address disparities in access to telemedicine. More research is needed to understand the relationship between English proficiency, telemedicine visits, and downstream ED and hospital visits

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