The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), is releasing a new report showing the dramatic utilization trends of telehealth services for primary care delivery in Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare in the early days of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The report analyzes claims data from January through early June.  The report underscores how telehealth flexibilities, introduced by the Trump Administration to address the care delivery disruptions caused by the pandemic, helped to spur and maintain Medicare beneficiaries’ access to their primary care providers.

“As soon as we declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, the Trump Administration took bold and rapid action to dramatically expand services that can be provided via telehealth and make it far more convenient for patients and providers,” said HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar. “Today’s ASPE report shows that Medicare providers and beneficiaries rapidly embraced these new opportunities. The meteoric rise of telehealth during the pandemic has not only helped us combat the virus, but also prompted a new conversation around the future of patient-centered care.”

At the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), with stay-at-home orders in place and warnings on the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increasing with age, the report found Medicare FFS in-person visits for primary care fell precipitously in mid-March. It then found that in April, nearly half (43.5%) of Medicare primary care visits were provided through telehealth compared with less than one percent (0.1%) in February before the PHE.

The press release can be found here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/07/28/hhs-issues-new-report-highlighting-dramatic-trends-in-medicare-beneficiary-telehealth-utilization-amid-covid-19.html

The full report with additional information can be found here: https://www.aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/medicare-beneficiary-use-telehealth