STAT Opinion: 3 surprising trends in seniors’ telemedicine use during the pandemic

This article highlights three findings about how telemedicine is used by Medicare beneficiaries, according to an analysis of 30 million Medicare claims:

  • One in 10 telehealth-using Medicare beneficiaries accessed care through the telephone alone, suggesting that eliminating reimbursement for telephone-only calls could meaningfully restrict access.
  • Telemedicine use decreased sharply after peaking in May 2020, demonstrating that telehealth will certainly play a role in health care, but future use depends on both government and private health plans’ policies around how — and how much — clinicians are reimbursed for providing this type of care.
  • Telemedicine use has not varied substantially by race and ethnicity. Through the end of 2020, there were no substantive differences found in the proportion of beneficiaries using telemedicine by race and ethnicity: 51 percent of non-Latino white beneficiaries, 55 percent of Black beneficiaries, and 56 percent for both Latino and Asian beneficiaries.