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Evaluating the impact of a virtual outpatient care program in preventing hospitalizations, emergency department visits and mortality for patients with COVID-19: a matched cohort study


Objectives — We sought to evaluate the impact of virtual care in preventing unnecessary healthcare visits for SARSCoV-2 patients.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective matched cohort study, evaluating the COVID-19 Expansion to Outpatients (COVIDEO) program involving virtual assessments for all positive patients in the Sunnybrook assessment center from January 2020 to June 2021, followed by risk-stratified routine follow-up, couriering of oxygen saturation devices, and 24 hour/day direct-to-physician pager for urgent questions. We linked COVIDEO data to province-wide datasets, matching each eligible COVIDEO patient to ≤10 other Ontario SARS-CoV-2 patients on age, sex, neighborhood, and date. The primary outcome was emergency department (ED) visit, hospitalization or death within 30 days. Multivariable regression accounted for comorbidities, vaccination and pre-pandemic healthcare utilization.

Results — Among 6,508 eligible COVIDEO patients, 4,763 (73.1%) were matched to ≥1 non-COVIDEO patient. COVIDEO care was protective against the primary composite outcome (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.91, 95%CI 0.82-1.02), with a reduction in ED visits (7.8% vs 9.6%; aOR 0.79, 95%CI 0.70-0.89), but increase in hospitalizations (3.8% vs 2.7%, aOR 1.37, 95%CI 1.14-1.63) reflecting more direct-to-ward admissions (1.3% vs 0.2%, p < 0.0001). Results were similar when matched comparators were limited to patients who had not received virtual care elsewhere with a decrease in ED visits (7.8 vs. 8.6%, aOR 0.86, 95%CI 0.75-0.99) and an increase in hospitalizations (3.7 vs 2.4%, aOR 1.45, 95%CI 1.17-1.80).

Conclusions — An intensive remote care program can prevent unnecessary ED visits and facilitate direct-to-ward hospitalizations and thereby mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare system.



Belzile MN, Lam P, Chan AK, Andany N, Simor A, Estrada-Codecido J, Ga’al A, Kapsack A, Mahmud A, Fridman D, Lee SM, Santoro A, Vandenbergh N, Daneman N. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2023; Apr 12 [Epub ahead of print].

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