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


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Although outpatient visits performed via telehealth have declined because the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits have remained elevated at the same time as extra sufferers return to in-person care, in response to an evaluation 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 yr earlier. Telehealth care helped increase complete visits, however there was nonetheless a niche in contrast with 2019. 

Nevertheless, by March 2021 to August 2021, utilization was again to pre-pandemic ranges. In-person outpatient visits have been increased than the identical interval two years earlier, and one other telehealth bump meant complete outpatient visits have 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 performed just about earlier than COVID-19. Through the March 2020 to August 2020 interval, 13% of outpatient visits have been performed by way of telehealth. That quantity dropped to 11% by September 2020 via February 2021, after which to eight% by the March 2021 to August 2021 time-frame.

“With elevated use of in-person care in the newest months of the pandemic, the share of outpatient visits delivered via 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 because the 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 examine additionally discovered that whereas city and rural residents, in addition to women and men, have been utilizing telehealth companies at related charges, older adults weren’t utilizing the modality as typically as youthful folks.

The share of outpatient visits performed 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 could replicate variations in enrollees’ consolation with the expertise, web entry and the kinds of companies used,” the authors wrote. 

Although telehealth actually 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 is not clear what function telehealth will play sooner or later or the place will probably be most helpful, however thus far psychological well being companies and substance-use care have utilized telehealth essentially the most. 

Payers can 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 companies past the pandemic.”

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