Most telehealth visits don't require in-person follow-ups, study shows

Most patients who had a telehealth visit didn't require an in-person follow-up appointment in the next three months, according to a Dec. 13 study from Epic Research. 

Epic Research examined more than 35 million telehealth visits conducted between March 1, 2020, and May 31, 2022, and found the following:

  1. In nearly every specialty the researchers studied, most patients who had a telehealth visit did not require an in-person follow-up appointment in that specialty in the next three months.
  2. For specialties that required follow-up, the additional visits were likely related to needing additional care, not duplicative care.

  3. Mental health and psychiatry had the largest volumes of telehealth utilization and some of the lowest rates of in-person follow-ups.

  4. Only 15 percent of the time did a patient who had a psychiatry or mental health telehealth visit need an in-person follow-up visit in the next three months.
  5. In specialties that are largely consultative, such as nutrition and genetics, telehealth visits could possibly replace the need for in-person visits.

  6. Genetics telehealth visits required in-person follow-ups 4 percent of the time.

  7. Nutrition telehealth visits required in-person follow-up only 10 percent of the time.  

Due to the findings, researchers recommend that healthcare providers should push advocacy around the function telehealth plays as an alternative, rather than duplicative, encounter, as well as advise healthcare payers to extend telehealth visit coverage beyond the current waiver in order to support this method of care delivery.

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