Recently, we shared data indicating that use of telemedicine appears to be on the decline following a brief period of increased utilization. Now an article published by JAMA Network confirms that those fluctuations tracked along with the COVID-19 pandemic, while also shedding light on who was drawn to virtual visits when in-person care seemed too daunting to some patients. Specifically, data from the IQVIA National Disease and Therapeutic Index showed that 77% of telehealth “visits” during the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2020 concerned long-term conditions (compared with 58% with in-person visits), while 27% were for short-term complaints (23% in-person). Very few virtual visits were (3%) were “preventive,” compared with 26% when it came to visiting a brick-and-mortar location. Overall, 24% of the care given during the survey period was virtual. Interestingly, roughly half of office-based visits and two-thirds of virtual visits were for established patients. Telemedicine visits jumped from 3 million in 2019 to 9 million in the first quarter of 2020 alone, then to 72 million in the second quarter. By the third quarter of last year, telehealth visits were back to 44 million.
Update: A Deeper Dive Confirms Telemedicine Use Waxes and Wanes Along with COVID-19