Telehealth snapshot August 2021

A look at who is using telehealth and how they’re using it.

Nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. report that they’ve had a telehealth visit with a doctor for themselves or a dependent in the past year showing the growing use of the service spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a study prepared by survey and market research firm SSRS on behalf the Bipartisan Policy Center, while 31 percent of the general population of U.S. had a telehealth visit for themselves or a dependent an even greater share of adults over the age of 65 have taken advantage of the service. Among Medicare beneficiaries, 44 percent reported having a telehealth visit within the last year.

The service is also proving to be effective as eight out of 10 adults said that their primary health issue was resolved by a telehealth visit. This isn’t surprising as 63 percent of telehealth visits were for a preventive service, routine visits for chronic illness, or for prescription refills. In these cases, audio-only visits were as likely to resolve patient issues as video visits, the study says.

Rural residents and older adults have reported technology-related barriers to accessing telehealth as 42 percent of older adults and 35 percent of rural residents reported that access to high-speed internet or broadband was an obstacle. Overall 45 percent of respondents reported some type of technical issue has been an obstacle to their taking advantage of telehealth visits, the study says.

The telehealth boom is keeping capacity open in emergency departments and urgent cares as one in seven people who have had a telehealth visit would have sought treatment in an emergency department or an urgent care if the service was unavailable. Furthermore, two in 10 adults say they would have delayed or not sought care at all if telehealth had not been available. Only 4 percent of respondents who had used telehealth were subsequently redirected to an emergency department, according to the study.

Patients are also happy with the care provided during their telehealth visits, as nine out of 10 adults reported being satisfied with the quality of their telehealth visit and are likely to use it in the future. This is very pronounced in the older community as 95 percent of Medicare beneficiaries expressed their satisfaction with the service, the study says.