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UNF research finds pandemic telehealth use improved healthcare access

University of North Florida Brooks College of Health researchers recently published results of a study that investigated telehealth utilization patterns of Medicare beneficiaries during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study found that increased telehealth availability in high-needs, low-income areas gave patients access to health care services that were previously unavailable or impossible to access; telehealth improved access and choices for all patients, regardless of geographic limitations; patients had greater access to timely care without the fear of contracting Covid-19 or other illnesses; and the telehealth trend will likely continue to grow and expand options for care services in the future.

The findings were gathered from a cross-sectional study on the responses of 9686 Medicare beneficiaries to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey in fall 2020. The results were carefully analyzed to examine the relationship between telehealth offerings and beneficiaries' sociodemographic variables. The study found that less than 8% of Medicare beneficiaries reported that they were unable to obtain care because of COVID-19.

The researchers concluded that changes in Medicare policy associated with the CMS' declaration of telehealth waivers during the 2020 Public Health Emergency likely increased the popularity and utilization of telehealth services during COVID-19, providing important, critical access to care for certain high-need populations.

Faculty involved in the study include Drs. Hanadi Hamadi, Mei Zhao, Rob Haley, Ajani Dunn, Shyam Paryani and Aaron Spaulding. Read the full article in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.