Outpatient telehealth use declines, however remains to be elevated from pre-pandemic period

Although outpatient visits carried out by telehealth have declined for the reason that starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits have remained elevated at the same time as extra sufferers return to in-person care, in line with an analysis by Epic Analysis and the Kaiser Household Basis.

The temporary, which analyzed visits from March 2019 to August 2021, discovered in-person outpatient visits in the course of the first six months of the pandemic declined to 72% of visits a 12 months earlier. Telehealth care helped increase whole visits, however there was nonetheless a niche in contrast with 2019. 

Nonetheless, by March 2021 to August 2021, utilization was again to pre-pandemic ranges. In-person outpatient visits had been increased than the identical interval two years earlier, and one other telehealth bump meant whole outpatient visits had been 19% increased than in 2019.

Nonetheless, outpatient telehealth visits have declined since their pandemic excessive, although they continue to be elevated in contrast with the restricted visits carried out nearly earlier than COVID-19. Throughout the March 2020 to August 2020 interval, 13% of outpatient visits had been carried out by way of telehealth. That quantity dropped to 11% by September 2020 by February 2021, after which to eight% by the March 2021 to August 2021 timeframe.

“With elevated use of in-person care in the newest months of the pandemic, the share of outpatient visits delivered by telehealth has decreased,” evaluation authors Justin Lo, Matthew Rae, Krutika Amin and Cynthia Cox wrote. 

“The variety of outpatient visits delivered over telehealth [has] declined for the reason that first six months of the pandemic. The share of outpatient visits delivered by way of telehealth is about 60% of what it was in the course of the first six months of the pandemic (13% vs. 8%).”

The research additionally discovered that whereas city and rural residents, in addition to women and men, had been utilizing telehealth providers at comparable charges, older adults weren’t utilizing the modality as usually as youthful folks.

The share of outpatient visits carried out by way of telehealth for non-elderly adults was 8% from March 2021 to August 2021, whereas it was solely 5% for seniors. It had declined from 10% in 2020. 

“These patterns might mirror variations in enrollees’ consolation with the know-how, web entry and the kinds of providers used,” the authors wrote. 

Although telehealth definitely improved entry to care in the course of the pandemic, the evaluation notes there are nonetheless questions on the way it will have an effect on prices and high quality. The authors stated it isn’t clear what position telehealth will play sooner or later or the place will probably be most helpful, however to date psychological well being providers and substance-use care have utilized telehealth essentially the most. 

Payers will even have a say in how the modality develops.

“Non-public and public payers’ telehealth protection and licensing insurance policies will unquestionably additionally have an effect on telehealth use sooner or later,” they wrote. “Some payers and employers have signaled continued protection of extra telehealth providers past the pandemic.”


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