Telehealth Made EASY: Understanding Provider Perceptions of Telehealth Appropriateness in Outpatient Rheumatology Encounters

Isaac D. Smith, Theresa M. Coles, Catherine Howe, Robert Overton, Nicoleta Economou-Zavlanos, Mary J. Solomon, Rong Zhao, Bhargav Adagarla, Jayanth Doss, Ricardo Henao, Megan E.B. Clowse, David L. Leverenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate a novel scoring system, the Encounter Appropriateness Score for You (EASY), to assess provider perceptions of telehealth appropriateness in rheumatology encounters. Methods: The EASY scoring system prompts providers to rate their own encounters as follows: in-person or telehealth acceptable, EASY = 1; in-person preferred, EASY = 2; or telehealth preferred, EASY = 3. Assessment of the EASY scoring system occurred at a single academic institution from January 1, 2021, to August 31, 2021. Data were collected in three rounds: 1) initial survey (31 providers) assessing EASY responsiveness to five hypothetical scenarios, 2) follow-up survey (34 providers) exploring EASY responsiveness to 11 scenario modifications, and 3) assessment of EASYs documented in clinic care. Results: The initial and follow-up surveys demonstrated responsiveness of EASYs to different clinical and nonclinical factors. For instance, less than 20% of providers accepted telehealth when starting a biologic for active rheumatoid arthritis, although more than 35% accepted telehealth in the same scenario if the patient lived far away or was well known to the provider. Regarding EASY documentation, 27 providers provided EASYs for 12,381 encounters. According to these scores, telehealth was acceptable or preferred for 29.7% of all encounters, including 21.4% of in-person encounters. Conversely, 24.4% of telehealth encounters were scored as in-person preferred. Conclusion: EASY is simple, understandable, and responsive to changes in the clinical scenario. We have successfully accumulated 12,381 EASYs that can be studied in future work to better understand telehealth utility and optimize telehealth triage.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-852
Number of pages8
JournalACR Open Rheumatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


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