As COVID-19 Recedes, What Are Next Steps for Telehealth?

Telemedicine utilization boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, filling some of the unprecedented gaps in care. But its greatly expanded use uncovered some areas where more investment is needed to encourage adoption, while at the same time creating fears that because of its convenience, the pendulum could swing to overutilization, stakeholders say.

In a webinar held June 8, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield convened a panel of experts to discuss the future of telemedicine services and their potential role in reaching patients with chronic illnesses. They discussed potential barriers to telemedicine use and how they expected the service to evolve post-pandemic.

A study in Health Affairs published in February and co-authored by panel participant Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., associate professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, found that during the pandemic, 30.1% of all visits were provided via telemedicine. In addition, the weekly number of telemedicine visits increased 23-fold compared with the pre-pandemic period. Telemedicine use was lower in communities with higher rates of poverty.

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