Labeled as the silver lining during the COVID pandemic, telemedicine has grown exponentially over the past year. At first, most people were terrified to visit their doctor’s offices, which quickly turned telemedicine from a fringe service to a significant mode of care delivery.
For some Medicare beneficiaries and older adults, telemedicine has been a lifeline during the pandemic. With the announcement on March 17, 2020, that Medicare and Medicaid centers would be refunded for any telemedicine services to any patient, the beneficiaries of this care increased by thousands every week to about 1.7 million by April.
Here are some evolving trends observed among seniors who used telemedicine during the pandemic
- A significant decrease in the use of telemedicine after peaking in May 2020
Telemedicine undoubtedly plays a crucial role in health care and is likely to account for a modest share of visits under current medical practices, payment policies, and technologies. As we advance, the future use of telemedicine depends on how much clinicians are refunded for offering this type of care. Most health practitioners are bound to be more hesitant to adopt telemedicine if they aren’t sure how to be reimbursed for providing this kind of care.
2. 1 out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries use telephone calls only to access telemedicine
Reimbursing clinicians for telephone-only calls have continued to raise concerns over the quality of care provided. It is worth noting that if telephone-only calls are eliminated, 1 out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries will no longer benefit from telemedicine. Additionally, in rural areas, the lack of technology and broadband access has significantly affected access to telemedicine. For beneficiaries who don’t have access to video visits, research is still needed to find means to increase their access to telemedicine via video visits.
3. The use of telemedicine doesn’t vary by race and ethnicity
One of the undeniable benefits of telemedicine is its ability to cut across race and ethnicity. Data shows no significant differences in the number of people using telemedicine-based on race and ethnicity.
In conclusion, despite the focus on the rapid growth of telemedicine, its changing patterns of use have been severely overlooked. It is essential to track the evolving use of telemedicine and how Americans can better access this form of health care to ensure health care disparities do not increase.