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An In-Depth Look at Medicare Beneficiaries’ Use of Audio-Only Telehealth

Washington, DC – Telehealth became a welcome—and often necessary—mode of care during the pandemic. While Medicare beneficiaries utilized telehealth during this time, many turned to audio-only telehealth, with almost one out of every five visits being delivered by phone. This morning, as a follow-up to The Future of Telehealth After COVID-19 report released in October, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Program released a policy brief providing a deep dive into Medicare beneficiaries’ use of audio-only services before and during the pandemic.

“Continuing to lean ‘all in’ on audio-only care before we understand the impact on access, quality, and cost has the potential to create a two-tiered system whereby some have access to higher quality, face-to-face or video interventions and others access health care via the telephone,” said Associate Director Julia Harris. “Alternatively, allowing most audio-only flexibilities to expire ignores the needs of some beneficiaries to access their health care providers by phone.”

With Congress and the administration considering legislation that would extend policies promoting telehealth, understanding its use and potential pitfalls is vital to the sound care of patients and Medicare beneficiaries across the country.

Read the entire brief.