How primary care used telehealth to keep treating patients during the pandemic

Doctors rapidly rolled out telehealth options in the early days of COVID-19

A new report shows how quickly primary care physicians pivoted to telehealth at the beginning of the pandemic.

In April of 2020, the number of clinicians reporting that their patients were unable to access telehealth services due to lack of equipment or broadband issues fell from 72% to 65%, meaning more patients were gaining access to telehealth. By the end of May, this number drops to 29%.

In March of 2020, 60% of clinicians said they didn’t use telehealth, but by mid-April, that number had plummeted to only 14%. There were similar trends in both e-visits and patient portal usage.

The report also showed an increased use in both video and phone for telehealth, which shows the increasing adoption and expansion of telehealth.

The study concludes that the data shows that primary care was able to quickly move to virtual visits but had scarce resources to maintain it at the time. Nonetheless, in the September 2021 survey, it was noted that 36% of practices had adopted new telehealth software - a change that happened during the pandemic.

By 2021, 40% of practices reported they used telemedicine for at least one-fifth of all visits. Other findings include:

  • 45% of respondents are motivated to use telemedicine because patients really like it
  • 60% report increased use of telemedicine and that it will always be part of their practice
  • 70% say they gained confidence in telemedicine from the pandemic