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February 2, 2021

Paying for Telemedicine After the Pandemic

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care, Women’s College Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  • 3Centre for Online Health, Centre for Health Services Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
JAMA. 2021;325(5):431-432. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.25706

One of the major positive changes in care delivery during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is the surge in telemedicine use. Because telemedicine eliminates the risk of viral transmission during travel and in the clinical setting, it has been a valuable tool for maintaining patient access to care for health issues both related and not related to COVID-19.

Sudden and substantial increases in the use of telemedicine during the pandemic occurred in Australia, Canada, and the US. At its peak in April 2020, telemedicine was responsible for 38% (5 786 315 of 16 672 010) of all ambulatory visits among Australia’s Medicare program,1 42% (2 138 940 of 5 109 843) of all ambulatory visits for individuals insured by a US commercial insurer,2 and 77% (3 194 107 of 4 161 582) of all ambulatory visits among people in Ontario, Canada. Since that peak there has been a decline in telemedicine use across the 3 nations, but use remains substantially higher than prepandemic levels. Many telemedicine visits were via telephone, making up 90% of the telemedicine visits in Canada and Australia.

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