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Monday May 31, 2021

More evidence that telehealth is here to stay

A recent study(www.kff.org) by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Medicare beneficiaries embraced telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About half (45%) of Medicare patients whose primary care clinician offered telehealth visits reported having one during the summer or fall of 2020. That represented 27% of the nation’s 55.3 million Medicare beneficiaries (33% of all beneficiaries said they did not have a telehealth visit even though their primary care clinician offered them, and 40% said either their primary care clinician didn’t offer telehealth or they didn’t know if they did).

There was one major caveat, however, that could have implications for post-pandemic telehealth usage. A majority (56%) of Medicare beneficiaries who reported having a telehealth visit during that time period said it had been an audio-only telephone call — which is currently not covered as telehealth outside of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The share of those who reported audio-only visits was higher among patients age 75 and older, as well as rural patients. This suggests that technological literacy and lack of access to reliable broadband internet may be obstacles to telehealth uptake if audio-only coverage is discontinued post-pandemic.

The American Academy of Family Physicians and other groups are advocating for lasting changes to telehealth regulations, including that Medicare continue to cover audio-only evaluation and management visits after the pandemic.

For more on this topic, see the FPM editorial "These Four Telehealth Changes Should Stay, Even After the Pandemic."

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Posted at 11:45PM May 31, 2021 by FPM Editors

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