Our mission is to catalyze and disseminate IHPI-member research on the role of telehealth in improving healthcare access, enhancing patient experience, and reducing costs.
What is the Telehealth Research Incubator?
Since it began in 2018, the Telehealth Research Incubator has brought together more than 30 collaborators from the School of Medicine, School of Public Health, School of Information, and Ross Business School to publish 22 manuscripts, submit 4 large-scale grants, and disseminate research findings through scientific conferences, national podcast interviews, social media, and meetings with organizations including Michigan Association of Health Plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Legislative Health Policy Group, National Governors Association, and more.
Similar to a startup accelerator in the business world, the Incubator supports early-stage telehealth researchers by providing intense content expertise and education in telehealth policy, research methods, and dissemination with the aim of producing research on the impact of telehealth on healthcare costs, quality, access, and patient experience. The research produced by the Telehealth Research Incubator is more important than ever as policymakers grapple with developing post-COVID-19 telehealth payment policy and regulations.
(2019) Chad Ellimoottil, M.D., M.S., director of the U-M Telehealth Research Incubator, explains telehealth’s potential to bring greater value, quality, and access to healthcare delivery, and the important questions to consider in evaluating telehealth policies and implementation.
Recent Research Products
Association between Direct-to-Consumer Telemedicine Visits for Acute Respiratory Infections and Downstream Related Visits (2021)
Objective: To determine whether a telehealth visit is sufficient to resolve medical issues or whether the telehealth visits ultimately lead to secondary urgent care and emergency room visits.
Findings: While telehealth visits led to a higher rate of downstream follow-up care compared to a control group (10% vs 6%), these secondary visits were in low-cost settings such as the primary care physician’s office.
Predictors of audio-only versus video-only telehealth visits during the COVID-19 pandemic (2021)
Objective: Most health insurance organizations reimbursed both video and audio-only (i.e., phone) visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, but may discontinue phone visit coverage after the pandemic. Our objective was to identify patient subgroups that are more likely to access telehealth through phone versus video.
Findings: Patients who are older, African-American, require an interpreter, use Medicaid and live in areas with low broadband access are less likely to use video visits. Post-pandemic policies that eliminate insurance coverage for phone visits may decrease telehealth access for patients who have one or more of these characteristics.
Use of Telehealth by Surgical Specialties During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2021)
Objective: To assess patterns of telehealth use across surgical specialties before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Findings: Among 4,405 surgical providers in our cohort, 2,588 (58.8%) surgeons performed telehealth during our study period. Telehealth use peaked in April 2020 (Week 14) and facilitated 34.6% of all new patient visits during that week. Average telehealth use rates varied by specialty with Urology being the highest (14.3%).
Comparison of Telemedicine Versus In-Person Visits on Impact of Downstream Utilization of Care (2021)
Objective: To assess how telehealth use impacts the frequency of follow-up visits.
Findings: Episodes of care initiated via telemedicine more frequently generate related visits within a 30-day period. This increased health care utilization could represent excessive care or could reflect expanded access to care.
Chad Ellimoottil M.D., M.S., TRI Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, Medical School
Dr. Ellimoottil is an assistant professor of urology and has been performing video visits with his patients since 2016. He is the medical director of telehealth for the urology department and has led the growth of telehealth in his department from 50 to 1,000 visits per month. He has over 90 scientific publications and has been awarded multiple grants. He has served as a telehealth subject matter expert for the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee. His research has been quoted in the press and he has been invited to speak about telehealth in many private and public venues including National Public Radio (NPR), Tradeoffs health policy podcast, and Freakonomics Radio.
Emma Steppe, M.P.H., Project Manager
Sophia Ng, Ph.D., Statistician
Ziwei Zhu, M.S., Biostatistician