Medicare patients still taking advantage of telehealth

In the first half of 2022, 7.5 million Medicare users accessed telehealth services to receive healthcare. During that same time, there were about 45 million Medicare telehealth-eligible users. This is according to the Medicare Telehealth Trends Report, which looked at telehealth usage by reviewing Medicare Fee-for-Service Part B claims data from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022.

Telehealth visits among Medicare users has decreased since 2020. In 2020, 48% of Medicare users accessed a telehealth service. In 2021, this number decreased to 34%. For the first two quarters of 2022, these percentages were 19% and 15% respectively.

The COVID-19 public health emergency(PHE)—which has been in place since January 27, 2020—lifted some restrictions on telehealth services for Medicare users, making this a more accessible way for patients to access care.  

“While these expansions lead to large increases in telehealth use, the extent of the increase varied across geographic and demographic groups. These differences may be driven by a number of factors, including access to broadband internet, varying state-level policies on the delivery of telehealth across state lines and the timing and degree to which the pandemic affected geographic areas differently,” states CMS in the report.

The report looked at demographics of telehealth users (among Medicare-eligible users). Interestingly, most of this information stayed the same throughout the past two years. For example:

  • Women accessed telehealth services more than men
  • Patients in urban areas accessed telehealth services more than patients in rural areas
  • Hispanic patients accessed telehealth services more than other races/ethnicities

Although the COVID-19 PHE ends on May 11, 2023, Congress passed a spending package in December 2022 that extends covering telehealth services for Medicare patients for the next two years.