OIG Report Provides Insight Into Telehealth Use By Medicare Beneficiaries

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OIG Report Provides Insight Into Telehealth Use By Medicare Beneficiaries
by Lucy Lamboley

The U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a "data snapshot" report about the relationship between Medicare beneficiaries and providers for telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the report, OIG reviewed Medicare claims data for telehealth services provided from March through December 2020. Here are eight of the key takeaways:

1. 26 million beneficiaries received at least one telehealth service during this period. That represents nearly 2 out of every 5 Medicare beneficiaries (39%).

2. Just more than half of these beneficiaries were enrolled in traditional Medicare fee-for-service. The remainder were enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

3. More than 80% of all beneficiaries received all their telehealth services from providers with whom they had an established relationship, meaning they had an in-person visit or other service with their providers prior to the telehealth service. The remaining beneficiaries received telehealth services from at least one provider with whom they had no prior relationship.

4. Traditional Medicare beneficiaries were more likely than Medicare Advantage beneficiaries to receive telehealth services from providers with whom they had an established relationship.

5. Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who had established relationships with providers had an in-person visit an average of four months prior to their first telehealth service.

6. The most common telehealth services received by both groups of beneficiaries were e-visits and virtual check-ins (i.e., brief telephone calls and online interactions via patient portals) and telephone evaluation and management (E/M) services (i.e., telephone calls to discuss a medical condition).

7. Beneficiaries received about 45.5 million office visits delivered via telehealth. This accounted for nearly half (49%) of all telehealth services provided during the March through December 2020 period. These visits include services with primary care providers and specialists.

8. For the most common telehealth services, a healthy majority (70+ percent) of beneficiaries saw providers with whom they had an established relationship. This includes the aforementioned services as well as such services as remote patient monitoring, preventive services, and psychotherapy. The only outlier: home visits, at 34%.

Access the data snapshot by clicking here.

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