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Patients steadily return to in-person primary care as telehealth plateaus


Fotolia Telehealth visits that exploded in recent months are starting to plateau and in some cases decline in popularity as doctor’s offices reschedule backlogged patients for more in-person appointments, according new data from The Commonwealth Fund . Telemedicine visits accounted for about 14% of all total visits the week of April 19, according to the report, but that number dropped to 13% the next week and 12% the week after that. Telehealth visits held at 12% for the first two weeks of May.

Primary care practices especially are grappling with telehealth’s limitations, said Farzad Mostashari, CEO of Aledade, a startup that helps practices develop new payment models. Minor procedures involving sutures and stitches, for example, are revenue-driving primary care services that can’t be done virtually.

Though nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, outpatient visits are on the rebound across the country, the report found, and appear largest in the south central region that includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

In response to the pandemic, CMS waived some telehealth regulations and increased payments to providers using the technology. But after two months, some doctors are starting to bring patients back in for services they can’t provide online.

Researchers looked […]

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