University of Michigan Medicine: Telehealth flexibilities didn’t send Medicare visits soaring, despite worries

An analysis of Medicare data from the University of Michigan Medicine found that older Americans and their health care providers have settled into a steady pattern of using telehealth technology for nearly one in 10 outpatient appointments. The analysis shows that for the second half of 2021, about nine percent of all outpatient appointments by people with traditional Medicare coverage took place over video or audio connections – a decline from telehealth connections made from mid-2020 through mid-2021, but still an increase from 2019. “As telehealth use hits its stride in the Medicare fee-for-service population, the fears that flexible telehealth rules might lead to an increase in the total volume of outpatient visits has not panned out,” said Chad Ellimoottil, M.D., M.S., lead author of the new preprint and leader of IHPI’s Telehealth Research Incubator lab. “With all the evidence we have to date, it appears that telehealth has been used as a substitute for in-person care rather than an expansion of care.”

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