Telemedicine

RANDS during COVID-19

The Research and Development Survey (RANDS) is a platform designed for conducting survey question evaluation and statistical research. RANDS is an ongoing series of surveys from probability-sampled commercial survey panels used for methodological research at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). RANDS estimates were generated using an experimental approach that differs from the survey design approaches generally used by NCHS, including possible biases from different response patterns and increased variability from lower sample sizes. Use of the RANDS platform allowed NCHS to produce more timely data than would have been possible using our traditional data collection methods. RANDS is not designed to replace NCHS’ higher quality, core data collections. Below we provide experimental estimates of telemedicine access and use. Two rounds of RANDS during COVID-19 data collection are planned, and data collection for the first round occurred between June 9, 2020 and July 6, 2020. The data presented here are from the first round only. Information needed to interpret these estimates can be found in the Technical Notes.

NCHS included questions about whether providers offered telemedicine (including video and telephone appointments)—both during and before the pandemic—and about the use of telemedicine during the pandemic. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many local and state governments discouraged people from leaving their homes for nonessential reasons. Although health care is considered an essential activity, telemedicine offers an opportunity for care without the potential or perceived risks of leaving the home. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), conducted by NCHS, is adding telemedicine questions to its sample adult questionnaire starting in July 2020. Currently RANDS is the only NCHS source for telemedicine availability and use data.

The experimental estimates on this page are derived from RANDS and show the percentage of U.S. adults who have a usual place of care and a provider that offered telemedicine in the past two months, who used telemedicine in the past two months, or who have a usual place of care and a provider that offered telemedicine prior to the coronavirus pandemic.


Use the drop-down menus to show data for telemedicine access and use indicators by groups (age, race and Hispanic origin, sex, education, urbanization, and chronic conditions).


Technical Notes

Data Source

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Division of Research and Methodology (DRM) contracted with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) to conduct the Research and Development Survey (RANDS) during COVID-19. The sample for this study was drawn from NORC’s AmeriSpeak® Panel (amerispeak.norc.orgexternal icon) using a stratified sample design to obtain a random, representative sample of U.S. adults aged 18 and over, where sampling strata were defined by race and Hispanic origin (grouped by 1) Hispanic, 2) black non-Hispanic, and 3) white non-Hispanic or other non-Hispanic), age (18–34, 35–49, 50–64, and 65 and over), sex (male or female), education (Bachelor’s degree or less or Bachelor’s degree or above), and income level (less than $75,000 or more than $75,000). NORC performed sampling independently within each of the 96 strata using simple random sampling. The RANDS survey was conducted in English using web and telephone administration. Survey administration mode was determined by the preference of the panelists.

NORC invited 8,663 randomly selected panelists to participate in RANDS between June 9, 2020 and July 6, 2020. At the completion of the study, 6,800 interviews were completed for an overall completion rate of 78.5%. Of the 6,800 completed interviews, 6,390 (94.0%) were completed via web administration and 410 (6.0%) were completed via telephone.

 

Survey Questions

The questionnaire included questions to assess U.S. adults’ loss of work due to illness with COVID-19, use of telemedicine, and access to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions related to telemedicine were only asked of those with a usual place ​of care ​(Is there a place that you usually go to if you are sick and need health care?). Among those ​who were offered telemedicine from their usual place of care, respondents were additionally asked about their use of telemedicine during the pandemic. Estimates for the telemedicine questions are reported for ​the whole population, including the residual categories of the subpopulations that do not have access to a usual place of care or were not offered telemedicine. Survey questions on RANDS related to these topics included the following:

 

Telemedicine

In the last two months, has this provider offered you an appointment with a doctor, nurse, or other health professional by video or by phone?

The estimates reported are the percentage of all adults

  1. with a provider who offered telemedicine in the last two months.
  2. with a provider who did not offer telemedicine in the last two months.
  3. with a provider but did not know if their provider offered telemedicine in the last two months.
  4. who does not have a usual place of care.

The reported estimates may not sum to 100% due to rounding.

 

In the last two months, have you had an appointment with a doctor, nurse, or other health professional by video or by phone?

The estimates reported are the percentage of all adults

  1. who used telemedicine in the last two months.
  2. who has not used telemedicine in the last two months.
  3. who do not have telemedicine available, including those whose provider does not offer telemedicine, those who do not know if their provider offers telemedicine and those with no usual place of care.

The reported estimates may not sum to 100% due to rounding.

 

Did this provider offer you an appointment with a doctor, nurse, or other health professional by video or by phone, before the coronavirus pandemic?

The estimates reported are the percentage of all adults

  1. with a provider who offered telemedicine prior to the pandemic.
  2. with a provider who did not offer telemedicine prior to the pandemic.
  3. with a provider but did not know if their provider offered telemedicine prior to the pandemic.
  4. who does not have a usual place of care.

The reported estimates may not sum to 100% due to rounding.

 

Weighting and Estimation

NORC provided sample weights which account for the sample design and are calibrated to U.S. population counts to account for differential nonresponse and under coverage of some groups on the sample frame. The sample weights developed by NORC were based on the panel weights from the AmeriSpeak® Panel and the RANDS survey-specific sampling weights. The panel weights account for the sampling probability from the AmeriSpeak® Panel, calculated as the inverse probability of selection from the NORC National Sample Frame, which are adjusted for non-response and for a subsample of housing units that have a nonresponse follow-up. These panel weights are adjusted using raking to align the panel weights with external population totals obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS). From the panel weights, the RANDS survey-specific sampling weights are derived using the probability of selection into RANDS associated with a sampled panel member and an adjustment for nonresponse to the RANDS survey. The RANDS survey-specific sampling weights are raked to general population totals, trimmed for extreme weights, and re-raked to the same population totals to form the final NORC-provided sample weights.

NCHS implemented an additional weighting step to calibrate the NORC-provided weights to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an established core household survey conducted by NCHS. NORC-provided sample weights were adjusted through an additional post-stratification step in which the marginal totals of RANDS were raked to the marginal population totals of the 2018 NHIS sample adult file (n = 25,417), associated with the following demographic and health characteristics: age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, education, income, Census region, marital status, diagnosed high cholesterol, diagnosed asthma, diagnosed hypertension, and diagnosed diabetes. Characteristics with missing values in RANDS and in NHIS were included in the raking procedure, while characteristics with missing values in one of the surveys were removed for the raking step with an adjustment on the weights for the non-missing values. The calibrated weights were proportionally adjusted to sum to the total number of RANDS respondents (n = 6,800). All analyses reported are based on the NCHS calibrated sample weights. It is important to note that RANDS during COVID-19 is a probability-sampled panel survey. Although the NORC-provided sample weights are designed to provide nationally representative estimates, the additional calibration further adjusts the RANDS data for differences in health and demographic factors between RANDS and NHIS due to possible differences in response propensities, coverage, and sample variability. The application of sample weights to the data is required to produce results with meaningful population representativeness and to accurately assess the sampling error of statistics based on the survey data.

For each outcome reported, the sample size, percentage estimate, and standard error estimate are shown. Standard error estimates were generated using a Taylor series linearization approach. SUDAAN’s PROC CROSSTAB was used to calculate all estimates. PROC CROSSTAB accounts for the complex survey design variables, including the sampling strata and sampling weights. Missing values were excluded from the reported estimates. Estimates that did not meet the NCHS Data Presentation Standards for Proportions are suppressed (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_02/sr02_175.pdfpdf icon).

Each set of estimates is reported for the total overall (at the national level) and by selected factors including demographics and diagnosed chronic conditions. Selected factors included age group (18–44, 45–64, and 65 and over), race and Hispanic origin (white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic, other non-Hispanic, Hispanic), sex (male or female), education (high school graduate or less, some college, or Bachelor’s degree or above), urbanization (metropolitan or non-metropolitan), and chronic conditions (one or more chronic conditions, diagnosed diabetes, diagnosed hypertension, or current asthma). For subgroup analyses, sex is identified by the response to the survey item “Please tell us your gender.” Urbanization is assigned by zip code, where metropolitan includes metropolitan and micropolitan areas and non-metropolitan includes all other designations. One or more chronic conditions is defined as a diagnosis of one or more of the following: hypertension, also called high blood pressure; high cholesterol; coronary heart disease; current asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or chronic bronchitis; cancer or a malignancy of any kind; or diabetes excluding pre-diabetes and borderline diabetes. Estimates are accompanied by bar charts displaying comparisons within the selected factors.

 

Limitations and Data Use

The information presented here is based on data collected by commercial vendors that maintain groups of respondents, called panels, who agree to participate in surveys, typically in exchange for payment or prizes. Panel surveys can be much quicker and less expensive to conduct than typical NCHS surveys that draw new samples from nationally representative lists and collect information by phone, online, or in person. Panel surveys also typically have more bias and less accuracy than traditional survey methods.

RANDS is an ongoing NCHS research program designed to investigate whether and, if so, how panels with more biases can be used in conjunction with other, higher quality data collections to increase the scope of information collected, the timeliness of data collection and the sample size, and to expand the scope and granularity of NCHS statistical products. The RANDS was not designed to replace NCHS’ higher quality, core data collections but to be used in conjunction with those surveys especially during periods when standard data collection methods face challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to further explore the collection of new information more quickly than is possible using the Federal Statistical System’s core data collection approaches. Building on past work, NCHS took advantage of the RANDS platform to collect information regarding aspects of the public health emergency not currently being captured in sufficient detail in government or nongovernment surveys, including access to health care for non-COVID-19 conditions. In addition, measurement research that may be instructive for interpreting other Federal and non-Federal surveys during the pandemic will be conducted and calibration research will continue. Experimental national estimates are only provided for selected variables. The other variables are being collected specifically for research purposes. The experimental national estimates for the inability to work due to illness with COVID-19, telemedicine before and during the pandemic, and problems accessing specific types of health care due to the pandemic have been calibrated using information from NCHS’ NHIS in an effort to correct for some portion of the potential bias in the panel relative to the NHIS, as described above. Information on the effect of calibration for past data collections and for this round of data collection will be presented on the RANDS website. As research is underway to both improve the calibration method and understand potential sources of measurement error, estimates may be updated based on the results of that research. These estimates should be considered experimental. In the event of an update to the calibration approach, the change will be documented and tables will be updated accordingly.

Page last reviewed: August 5, 2020