5 stats illustrating a decline in telehealth usage

Telehealth usage soared during the first six months of the pandemic. Usage has been declining since, but telehealth is still utilized more than before COVID-19, according to research published Feb. 10 in the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker.

The report analyzed telehealth use from March 2019-August 2021 using data from Epic's Cosmos database.

Five key insights:

  1. Telehealth use rose from less than 1 percent of outpatient visits before the pandemic to 13 percent of outpatient visits in the first six months of the pandemic. This rate declined to 11 percent during the next six-month period, and then to 8 percent a year into the pandemic.

  2. In the first six months of the pandemic, more than 1 in 6 outpatient visits including a primary diagnosis of obesity, asthma, hypertension, diabetes or thyroid disorders were conducted through telehealth. The share of outpatient visits including a primary diagnosis for a chronic condition has declined substantially. For example, the share of outpatient visits conducted through telehealth for asthma dropped from 25 percent in the period from March-August 2020 to 8 percent in the period from March-August 2021.

  3. At the beginning of the pandemic, children and adults ages 19-64 used telehealth for 18 percent and 14 percent of outpatient visits, respectively, while Americans ages 65 and older used telehealth for 10 percent of outpatient visits. As the pandemic has gone on, older patients continue to use telehealth less than younger patients, reflecting generational differences in patients' comfort with technology, internet access and types of services used.

  4. In the first six months of the pandemic, urban residents' share of telehealth outpatient visits was 13 percent and rural residents' share was 12 percent. During spring and summer 2021, telehealth visits in urban and rural areas had declined to 8 percent and 10 percent of visits, respectively.

  5. Men and women have been using telehealth at about the same rates during the pandemic. From March-August 2021, telehealth accounted for 8 percent of women's outpatient visits and 7 percent of men's outpatient visits.
 

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