Primary care, medical specialty, and surgical specialty providers saw an uptick in telehealth utilization when the pandemic hit in 2020, but virtual care use dwindled in the second half of the year, a survey found.
– Telehealth utilization peaked in the first half of 2020 and decreased as the year came to a close, with providers predicting that virtual care use would continue to decline in upcoming years, according to the 2021 Medical Group Telehealth Survey.
AMGA Consulting conducted the survey and gathered responses from 56 medical groups representing more than 38,000 healthcare providers.
The majority of the participants (86 percent) were part of multispecialty groups with primary care, while the remaining were either multispecialty without primary care, primary care, or single-specialty groups.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems and clinics restricted in-person care, which unsurprisingly led to the increased adoption of virtual care services.
Telehealth utilization among medical groups saw the most significant increase between the first and second quarter of 2020, the survey found. Primary care specialty groups had the biggest incline, with telehealth accounting for 1.9 percent of all visits in Q1 and 33.3 percent of all visits in Q2.
Medical and surgical specialty groups also hit their telehealth use peak in Q2, with a respective 26.7 percent and 12.6 percent of all visits being conducted virtually.
“The explosive growth of telehealth in 2020 was not surprising. It was an extraordinary reaction to an extraordinary situation,” Fred Horton, president of AMGA Consulting, said in a press release. “As we study the long-term effects this uptick in utilization had on quality, I believe we’ll find that telehealth adds a new dimension to healthcare delivery.”
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