Senior woman having an online consultation with her doctor

The use of Medicare visits conducted through telehealth skyrocketed 63-fold during the pandemic, to 52.7 million in 2020 from 840,000 in 2019, according to a report released Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services. Among the specialists seeing the highest telehealth utilization were behavioral health providers, HHS said.

“This report provides valuable insights into telehealth usage during the pandemic,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said. “CMS will use these insights — along with input from people with Medicare and providers across the country — to inform further Medicare telehealth policies.”

CMS expanded the use of telehealth during the pandemic through the public health emergency. It waived several statutory limitations such as geographic restrictions and allowed beneficiaries to receive telehealth in their homes.

In 2020, telehealth visits comprised a third of total visits to behavioral health specialists, compared to 8% of visits to primary care providers and 3% of visits to other specialists, HHS said. 

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