COVID-19 presented many challenges for medical professionals when providing care to patients – including discharge timely follow-up visits after hospitalizations but with telehealth, some of the care that usually took place in-person could now take place virtually.
CARES Act Telehealth Expansion: Trends in Post-Discharge Follow-up After HRRP Hospitalization and Association with 30-Day Readmissions, a recent study among Medicare patients led by NCQA Research Scientist Dr. Carrie Mills, looked at trends patterns in telehealth use during COVID-19 to see if there were disparities in who had access to telehealth as a health care option. The researchers also explored the association between type of follow-up and hospital readmissions.
With a change to telehealth regulations in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, over half of timely follow-up visits after hospitalizations were by telehealth (54% in April 2020). Use of telehealth decreased throughout the study period, and was 18% of follow-up in September 2020. Rates of telehealth in 2020 were still high compared to 2019 (telehealth accounted for 0.1% of follow-up , in 2019).
Telehealth use also varied by patients’ characteristics, with some historically underserved populations utilizing telehealth more often. Telehealth was used more often for follow-up persons with Medicare/Medicaid dual insurance, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in socially deprived areas.
Findings suggested that hospital readmissions were lower when telehealth follow-up was used than if no follow-up occurred, though readmissions were lowest when in-person follow-up was used. These findings suggest that telehealth may help prevent readmissions and reducing disparities among patient who were hospitalized.
This study was one four reports NCQA staff presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting on June 15, 2021. Others were:
- Predictors of Chronic Pain Diagnosis and Treatment Among Adult Federally Qualified Health Center Patients
- Access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Among Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries: Where Are the Gaps?
- COVID-19 Disrupted Skilled Nursing Facility Utilization and Outcomes across Medicare Advantage Enrollee Subgroups
- Quality of Preventive and Chronic Care for Insured Adults with Opioid Use Disorder
The primary source of funding for this study was from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.