Dramatic Rise in Medicare Telehealth Use During Pandemic

July 31, 2020

According to a new report issued this week by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), nearly half (43.5%) of Medicare primary care visits were provided via telehealth in April – as the use of in-person primary care was dropping sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic – compared with just 0.1% in February.

In mid-April, more than one million Medicare beneficiaries in traditional Medicare accessed care through telehealth, compared to just 11,000 during the week ending March 7. Medicare Advantage plans also expanded access to telehealth services during the pandemic and found that 91% of seniors reported a favorable experience. The report also found rural and urban areas saw increases in telehealth use, though it was greater in urban counties.

“As soon as we declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, the Trump Administration took bold and rapid action to dramatically expand services that can be provided via telehealth and make it far more convenient for patients and providers,” said HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar. “[The] ASPE report shows that Medicare providers and beneficiaries rapidly embraced these new opportunities. The meteoric rise of telehealth during the pandemic has not only helped us combat the virus, but also prompted a new conversation around the future of patient-centered care.”