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Telemedicine Reports








Introduction: Telehealth utilization surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering expanded health care access. Audio-only visits emerged as a crucial tool for patients facing technology or connectivity barriers to still use telehealth. This qualitative study aims to better understand patient perceptions of audio-only versus video telehealth visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how patients perceive the role of each in their overall health care. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 adult patients seeking care at an academic medical center located in the Southeast region of the United States. Patients had experienced both an audio-only and video telehealth visit within the past 6 months. Topics covered in the interview included comfort, preference, quality, and communication during each type of visit. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed using a general inductive approach. Results: Participants valued having both modalities available largely due to convenience and saw these visits as supplemental or supporting their in-person care. Preferences for visit types were varied among participants and were context-specific, influenced by visit purpose and provider rapport. Patients viewed audio-only visits favorably for informational follow-ups and highlighted their convenience, particularly for multitasking and caregiving duties. In contrast, video visits were seen as more effective for communication due to visual cues and better suited for demonstrating health conditions. Audio-only visits were also seen as less technology-dependent and served as a vital back-up to failed video encounters. Discussion: Despite varied preferences, patients perceived both modalities as complementary to in-person care. Concerns around the quality of care were mitigated by patients' and providers' judicious use of visit types based on clinical appropriateness and existing rapport. The results emphasize the necessity and flexibility of audio-only visits in ensuring equitable access to telehealth, especially for those with technology limitations or demanding responsibilities. To maintain the access and convenience afforded by telehealth and ensure these benefits are offered equitably, policy makers and health care organizations must continue to provide flexible telehealth options, including audio-only visits.


© Ryan Kruis et al., 2024. This open access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License [CC BY] (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Original Publication Citation

Kruis, R., Brown, E. A., Johnson, J., Simpson, K. N., McElligott, J., & Harvey, J. (2024). Patient perceptions of audio-only versus video telehealth visits: A qualitative study among patients in an academic medical center setting. Telemedicine Reports, 5(1), 89-98.