Telehealth visits continue to trend up with patients

April 26, 2021

Vizient, Inc. released its analysis of data that show telehealth visits trending at roughly 22% of all patient visits for January 2021, a significant increase from 0.3% of visits prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The analysis of more than 66 million patient visits, across 96,000 providers and 18,000 locations since January 2020 shows that telehealth has become a common method of care, with certain specialties in higher demand. Telehealth visits for Behavioral Health and Neurology continue to be in high demand by patients at 68% and 40% respectively. 

The data, derived from the Clinical Practice Solutions Center, developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Vizient, show that in April 2020, telehealth visits spiked to 65% of all visits as total ambulatory visits dropped by 41% from the previous month. Without this quick shift to virtual care, more than 200,000 patient visits wouldn’t have taken place that month. Following the initial spike, telehealth visits as a share of all visits stabilized at just over one in five. 

“The data show that consumer acceptance of telehealth is strong, and for some chronic conditions, it may actually facilitate better clinical care due to the ease of regular check-ins with providers,” said Madeline McDowell, MD, FAAP, principal and medical director for Sg2, a Vizient subsidiary company. “Our modeling projects that nearly 30% of all patient encounters will be conducted virtually by the end of the decade.” 

The data also showed how demographics and social determinants of health affect the use of telehealth. 

  • Patients age 61 and older had the highest volume of total visits from April to December but lower rates of telehealth than other adults by December 2020.
  • Medicaid patients had fewer virtual visits than patients with private insurance and Medicare.
  • Medicare patients were also more likely than privately insured or Medicaid patients to use a phone for their virtual visits rather than a computer. 

“Patients on Medicaid used online telehealth visits at significantly lower levels than patients with Medicare or private insurance. This indicates that reliable and accessible internet service continues to impact access to care for many people, including those in rural communities,” said David Levine, MD, FACEP, group senior vice president, advanced analytics and product management for Vizient. 

Vizient has the report

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