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FRIDAY, Oct. 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) — During the first quarter of 2020, there was a 50 percent increase in the number of telehealth visits compared with the same period in 2019, according to research published in the Oct. 30 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Lisa M. Koonin, Dr.P.H., from the CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response Team, and colleagues analyzed deidentified encounter data from four of the largest U.S. telehealth providers to examine changes in the frequency of telehealth service use during the early pandemic period. Trends in telehealth encounters during January to March 2020 (surveillance weeks 1 to 13) were compared to encounters during the same period in 2019.

The researchers observed a 50 percent increase in the number of telehealth visits during the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, with a 154 percent increase in visits noted in surveillance week 13 in 2020 versus 2019. Most encounters during January to March 2020 were from patients seeking care for conditions other than COVID-19. During surveillance weeks 11 to 13 in 2020, the proportion of COVID-19-related encounters increased significantly, from 5.5 to 16.2 percent.

“With expanded access and improved reimbursement policies in place, as well as ongoing acceptability by patients and health care providers, telehealth might continue to serve as an important modality for delivering care during and after the pandemic,” the authors write.

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