Before the COVID-19 pandemic, use of telehealth in the U.S. was relatively minimal. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) issued waivers to expand access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in March 2020. In addition to access issues, certain populations have been less willing to use video telehealth. The RAND Corporation, a policy think tank, published results from a longitudinal cohort study that analyzed changes in telehealth practices in the November issue of Health Affairs.
The study found that between February 2019 and March 2021, overall willingness to use video telehealth increased from 51% to 62%. The authors found that the most noticeable increases were seen with Black adults and adults with lower education levels. Before the pandemic, only 42% of Black adults expressed a willingness to use telehealth. About a year into the pandemic, however, the percentage jumped to 67% – a figure “as high as or higher than any other racial or ethnic group.”
Similarly, before the pandemic, adults with less than a high school level of education reported about a 30% willingness to use telehealth in 2019, but by 2021 62% of those individuals reported participating in telehealth visits.
The study concluded that while the pandemic likely forced many individuals to have their first telehealth visits, these experiences were likely positive enough to influence their overall willingness. The authors also noted that while this study shows a narrowing of some disparities, other studies show that racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic differences remain. The Center published a special report, Telehealth and the Medicare Population: Building a Foundation for the Virtual Health Care Revolution, which examined disparity issues through research and interviews with experts around the nation.
December 8, 2022 – C. St. John
 Weigel, G., Ramaswamy, A., Sobel, L., Salganicoff, A., & Cubanski, J. Opportunities and Barriers for Telemedicine in the U.S. During the COVID-19 Emergency and Beyond. KFF. (May 11, 2020). Available at: https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/opportunities-and-barriers-for-telemedicine-in-the-u-s-during-the-covid-19-emergency-and-beyond/
 Fischer, S. H., Predmore, Z., Roth, E., Uscher-Pines, L., Baird, M., & Breslau, J. Use Of And Willingness To Use Video Telehealth Through The COVID-19 Pandemic. Health Affairs. (November 1, 2022). Available at: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2022.00118