Phone visits have quickly become a popular way to access care that is especially appealing to Californians with low incomes and Californians of color — populations whose access to care consistently lags. With Governor Gavin Newsom making health equity a priority, it would be a setback if the state took away this important care option for Medi-Cal enrollees.
California should build on what is working well during the COVID-19 pandemic to improve access to care, especially for those whose health needs have historically not been well served by the system. Watch how Kevin Shoop, a patient with multiple chronic conditions transitioning out of homelessness, has benefited from phone visits with his primary care provider.
- According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, phone visits constituted almost half of all primary care visits and more than 60% of behavioral health visits during the first six months of the pandemic at 40 California Federally Qualified Health Centers participating in the California Health Care Foundation’s COVID-19 telehealth initiative.
- Data from the same initiative suggest that phone visits may be an easier option for patients with limited English proficiency, who account for only 16% of patients who have received a video visit, but 26% of patients who have received a phone visit and 25% of those who have had in-person care.
- A survey of Californians who received health care between March 2019 and August 2020 found that more than a third of respondents (38%) had received a phone visit, and 72% said they were just as, or more, satisfied with their phone visit compared to their last in-person visit.
- The same survey found high utilization of, and satisfaction with, phone visits specifically among those with low incomes and among people of color:
- 46% of respondents of color had received a phone visit.
- 64% of respondents of color who had received a phone or video visit said they’d likely choose a phone or video visit over an in-person visit in the future.
- 43% of respondents with low incomes had received a phone visit.
- 63% of respondents with low incomes who had received a phone or video visit said they would likely choose a phone or video visit over an in-person visit in the future.
Explore the resources below to learn more.
Ending Phone Visits Would Be a Setback for Patients with Low Incomes
The Doctor Will Call Me Maybe
Telehealth Use Among Safety-Net Organizations in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This JAMA Research Letter finds that visits at FQHCs participating in CHCF’s Connected Care Accelerator declined only modestly for primary care and remained stable for behavioral health during the first six months of the pandemic, with telehealth (particularly by telephone) replacing in-person visits. The authors conclude that “eliminating coverage for telephone visits could disproportionately affect underserved populations and threaten the ability of FQHCs to meet patient needs.”