People seeking telehealth care for behavioral health, chronic conditions increased since March, study finds

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According to a recent study, the number of patients seeking telehealth care for behavioral health and chronic conditions increased 59 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase was in relation to a baseline taken in March through April 7. Increases varied by service, with unscheduled behavioral health visits growing 109 percent and chronic illness visits spiking 131 percent.

Researchers evaluated a telehealth provider’s volume for four conditions. The conditions were scheduled behavioral health, unscheduled behavioral health, chronic illness, and respiratory illness.

The study was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Congress has expanded the list of Medicare telehealth-eligible services and practitioners.

In February, less than 1 percent of Medicare primary care visits were provided via telehealth, according to an Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation report. This increased to approximately 43 percent during April.

Urban areas witnesses a higher increase than rural counties. The number of telehealth visits plateaued in May at approximately 700,000 visits weekly, 350 times higher than in February. In June, in-person visits resumed, and telehealth visits declined.

Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation stated that the demand for telehealth services would likely continue after the pandemic ends, but that telehealth will not replace outpatient in-person visits.

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