BACKGROUND: In recent years, telemedicine consultations have evolved as a new form of providing primary healthcare. Telemedicine options can provide benefits to patients in terms of access, reduced travel time and no risk of disease spreading. However, concerns have been raised that access is not equally distributed in the population, which could lead to increased inequality in health. The aim of this paper is to explore the determinants for use of direct-to-consumer (DTC) telemedicine consultations in a setting where telemedicine is included in the publicly funded healthcare system. METHODS: To investigate factors associated with the use of DTC telemedicine, a database was constructed by linking national and regional registries covering the entire population of Stockholm, Sweden (N = 2.3 million). Logistic regressions were applied to explore the determinants for utilization in 2018. As comparators, face-to-face physician consultations in primary healthcare were included in the study, as well as digi-physical physician consultations, i.e., telemedicine consultations offered by traditional primary healthcare providers also offering face-to-face visits, and telephone consultations by nurses. RESULTS: The determinants for use of DTC telemedicine differed substantially from face-to-face visits but also to some extent from the other telemedicine options. For the DTC telemedicine consultations, the factors associated with higher probability of utilization were younger age, higher educational attainment, higher income and being born in Sweden. In contrast, the main determinants for use of face-to-face visits were higher age, lower educational background and being born outside of Sweden. CONCLUSION: The use of DTC telemedicine is determined by factors that are generally not associated with greater healthcare need and the distribution raises some concerns about the equity implications. Policy makers aiming to increase the level of telemedicine consultations in healthcare should consider measures to promote access for elderly and individuals born outside of Sweden to ensure that all groups have access to healthcare services according to their needs.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy
- Healthcare utilization
- Primary healthcare