Bipartisan Policy Center and Social Sciences Research Solutions (SSRS): New Survey: Virtual Care Could Keep Low-Acuity Cases Out of Emergency Department

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) released findings from a national survey conducted by the Social Sciences Research Solutions (SSRS) on the uses of telehealth during the pandemic, along with its effectiveness and challenges. SSRS spoke with 1,776 adults, including an oversample of older adults, Hispanic and Black adults, as well as rural residents. The survey was conducted through landline and cellphone calls between June 28, 2021–July 18, 2021. The goal of the survey was to gain a better understanding of the quality and effectiveness of telehealth services, and the barriers consumers faced over the past year.

  • The survey found that access to telehealth kept people out of the emergency department during the pandemic. About one in seven people (14%) who used telehealth said they would have sought care in an emergency department or urgent care if telehealth was not available, and more than half of those people had their primary health issue resolved.
  • Notably, older adults were almost twice as likely to have had a telehealth visit in the past year compared to those under 30; and Medicare beneficiaries had the highest rates of telehealth use at 44 percent.
  • The most common purpose for a telehealth visit was a preventive service, prescription refill, or routine visit for a chronic illness (63%). Rural residents said they were more likely to use telehealth for surgical consults than people living in non-rural areas.
  • Nearly all (94%) respondents said they were satisfied with the quality of care in their telehealth visit; including 95 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, adults who had an audio-only visit had similar levels of satisfaction and issue resolution as those with a video visit.
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