Telemedicine Use Increases Among Rural Medicare Beneficiaries

In a recent study, Harvard Medical School researchers discovered the number of telemedicine visits provided to Medicare beneficiaries increase by 28 percent each year from 2004 to 2013, with a total of 107,000 visits provided in 2013. This research is one of the first to measure the frequency of telemedicine over the years.

In order to encourage greater use of telemedicine, more than half of U.S. states have passed parity laws mandating that telemedicine visits be reimbursed at the same rate as an in-person visit. Currently, Medicare limit payment for telemedicine care to patients living in rural areas who receive a live-video visit at a clinic or facility, but telemedicine use within Medicare continues to grow.

Over 40,000 rural Medicare beneficiaries received one telemedicine visit in 2013, with a mean of 2.6 visits each. Disabled beneficiaries with mental illness were the most likely to have received telemedicine services; with the vast majority of the visits being for mental health conditions.

“Within the Medicare program, telemedicine is being provided to a particularly disadvantaged population,” said Ateev Mehrotra, HMS associate professor of health care policy and lead author of the study.

Information collected from this study can help inform proposed legislation to help drive telemedicine into the future and increase access for those whom would benefit from these services.

For more information on telemedicine in rural areas click here. 

For the full JAMA research study on rural Medicare telemedicine click here. 

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