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5 Ways Telehealth Will Continue to Benefit Retirees

June 17, 2021

Medicare and most private insurers expanded coverage for a broad range of telehealth services early in the COVID-19 pandemic to include virtual access to care via phone or web conferencing for office visits, consultations, and more.1 While Americans across all age groups quickly adapted to this new way of accessing healthcare services, it was widely embraced by seniors, many of whom were concerned about contact with people outside of their own households during the pandemic.

According to the CDC, telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020 increased by 154% over the same period in 2019.2 Additional government data shows that in just one week in April, nearly 1.7 million Medicare beneficiaries received telehealth services, compared with 13,000 in a typical week before the pandemic. In addition, more than 9 million Medicare enrollees received telehealth services during the four-month lockdown, which started in mid-March 2020.3

Below are five ways seniors are benefitting from virtual appointments and why telehealth is likely here to stay:

1. Greater access to care: Often, people can “see” a doctor or physician’s assistant in a more timely manner than waiting for an office appointment. This can also help determine if it’s necessary to follow-up with an in-person appointment with their current provider or a specialist.

2. Convenience: Telehealth allows people to access care in the comfort and privacy of their own home. Research also indicates that people who take advantage of telehealth services spend less time waiting in doctor’s offices and hospitals and commuting to doctors’ visits.

3. Less stress: Many seniors and their caregivers report less stress with virtual visits, especially those with physical mobility issues or transportation challenges.2

4. Reduced spread of infection: Less time spent in crowded waiting rooms at medical offices, hospitals, and clinics reduces the risk of exposure to others who may be sick.

5. Lower costs: Cost savings from telehealth are largely realized when patients are able to avoid more costly care settings. Research shows that using telehealth to divert patients with non-life-threatening conditions from emergency departments can save more than $1,500 per visit.4

While virtual visits are not expected to fully replace in-person care, in many cases, telehealth can provide greater convenience and confidence along the path to maintaining health and wellness.