Project Summary

PCORI has identified COVID-19 as an important research topic. Patients, clinicians, and others want to learn: What are effective ways to prevent or reduce the impact of COVID-19, especially on vulnerable populations and the healthcare workforce? To help answer this question, PCORI launched an initiative in 2020 to Strengthen Understanding of COVID-19 Impact and Inform Healthcare Responses. The initiative funded this research project and others.

This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.

What is the research about?

People with chronic conditions, or long-term health problems, need to see their doctor regularly. Doctors help patients manage their conditions and check for worsening symptoms. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many doctors have been using telehealth to conduct visits with patients who have chronic conditions. Doing so avoids in-person contact in the office and helps to decrease the spread of COVID-19. With telehealth, doctors provide care to patients remotely using phone, video, or monitoring devices. But it’s unclear how well telehealth works compared with in-person care.

The research team is doing two studies. Study 1 is describing features of telehealth provided to patients with chronic conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Study 2 is comparing three ways to manage patients’ chronic conditions, looking at both telehealth and in-person care.

Who can this research help?

Results may help doctors and patients when considering ways to help patients manage chronic conditions.

What is the research team doing?

Study 1. The research team is interviewing medical directors and other leaders from 250 primary care practices across the United States. The team is asking about the type of telehealth programs offered. Next, the team is interviewing 25 doctors and 75 patients to learn about their experiences using telehealth.

Study 2. The research team is reviewing health records and insurance claims for 216,000 patients who are receiving care from their primary care doctor in one of three ways:

  • Telehealth visits only
  • In-person visits only
  • Both telehealth and in-person visits

Patients have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

The research team is looking at how often patients go to the emergency room, or ER, or hospital. The team is also checking if patients receive care from the same doctor and clinic over time. Lastly, the team is looking at patients’ health to see how well each way helps doctors and patients manage the patients’ chronic conditions.

Patients, doctors, insurers, and telehealth managers are helping to create study materials.

Research methods at a glance

Design Element Description

Study 1: Descriptive study

Study 2: Observational: cohort study

Study 1: Interviews with medical directors and leaders from 250 primary care practices, 25 primary care providers, and 75 patients

Study 2: 216,000 patients diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions: asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and diabetes 

Study 1: N/A

Study 2:

  • Synchronous telehealth alone
  • In-person care plus telehealth
  • In-person care alone

Study 1: N/A

Study 2:

Primary: ER visits, hospital admissions, continuity of care, attendance at follow-up visits, patient-reported outcomes

Secondary: Hemoglobin A1C control, blood pressure control, days at home, patient experience, ease and use of telehealth


Study 1: N/A

Study 2: Up to 12-month follow-up for primary outcomes

Project Information

Rainu Kaushal, MD, MPH
Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Evaluating the Comparative Effectiveness of Telemedicine in Primary Care: Learning from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Key Dates

May 2024


Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Populations Populations PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: January 24, 2024