During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers across the state rapidly shifted many of their appointments to telemedicine – a switch that allowed many Coloradans to continue to get the health care they need and that allowed providers to keep their doors open.
The change was dramatic: Data provided by a set of Colorado Front Range providers through a network known as CHORDS shows that the use of telemedicine increased from a pre-pandemic rate of fewer than 100 encounters per week to a peak of more than 30,000 visits per week.
This rapid growth, however, was not nearly enough to offset a large decrease in ambulatory, or in-person, encounters for those providers, which dropped 61% compared to average volumes for the same 16-week period the year before. That raises questions about what care has been deferred or delayed – and how that will affect Coloradans’ health.
These are some of the findings from new research from CHI, which we are excited to highlight this week. Three new publications, developed in collaboration with the Colorado Office of eHealth Innovation, highlight the value of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:
- Insights From Patients in Colorado highlights how patients feel about using telemedicine during the pandemic, examines the barriers to use some patients experienced, and analyzes the potential of telemedicine in Colorado from perspectives of the patients who use it.
- Insights From Patient Care Utilization in Colorado studies the utilization of telemedicine during the early months of the pandemic using electronic health record data from CHORDS.
- The Financial Impact on Providers and Payers in Colorado explores the financial effect of the pandemic and related policy decisions on Colorado’s providers and payers and assesses the business case for expanded telemedicine in the future.
These reports suggest that the shift to telehealth was more successful for different specialties and patients: For instance, behavioral health care providers saw increases in visits as they shifted to telehealth, while there were large decreases in health screenings and services related to chronic conditions. And while most patients say they will continue to use telemedicine even once in-person care feels safe, comfort and access to telemedicine depend on factors such as age, primary language, and technology literacy.
Let’s look at a few findings from the series: