A new report by Anthem’s Public Policy Institute highlights the use of virtual healthcare by individuals enrolled in Anthem’s affiliated Medicare Advantage (MA) plans during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to earlier time periods. The report examines the substantial increase in the use of virtual care, the types of services provided, and the demographics of the members who used them. The number of virtual services used by Anthem’s affiliated MA members in March through May 2020 was 136 times greater than in the same months the year before, increasing from 4,400 to 600,000.
As part of Anthem’s coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has taken steps to ensure access and coverage by adapting tools and policies, leveraging its expertise in data and advanced analytics to provide innovative solutions, and delivering outreach and relief to those in need. These steps also included increasing access to virtual care for video and telephone-only visits which —along with the resultant adoption of social distancing and stay-at-home orders— have shifted the way consumers access care.
“Earlier this year, the delivery of care changed as a result of the pandemic, so we examined that shift in order to better understand how members were using and accessing care,” said Jennifer Kowalski, vice president of the Anthem Public Policy Institute. “The intention of this report is to share these insights about the rapid uptick in the use of virtual services during the early months of the pandemic and the types of services that members were accessing. We believe that by examining and sharing how and when members were using virtual services, we can help to shape the healthcare system to better leverage digital technology to meet the needs of members and all Americans moving forward.”
Care rendered within existing patient-provider relationships accounted for 98 percent of the virtual services. While the vast majority of care was attributable to existing patient-providers relationships, the number of services for new patient encounters in March-May 2020 accounted for more than the sum of all virtual services for the same timeframe in 2019.
The analysis shows that mental health conditions and substance use disorders was the largest group of primary diagnoses treated virtually, with year over year growth in services of more than 5,000 percent. Among physical health conditions, cardiovascular diagnoses were the most commonly addressed via virtual visits during this period, followed by musculoskeletal ailments and endocrine and metabolic conditions.
The brief also breaks down the virtual services across demographics and shows that older members, while using more virtual services than the year before, used a smaller share of virtual services during 2020 than might be expected based on their 2019 in-person utilization.
About the Anthem Public Policy Institute
The Anthem Public Policy Institute was established to share data and insights to inform public policy and shape the health care programs of the future. The Public Policy Institute strives to be an objective and credible contributor to health care innovation and transformation through publication of policy-relevant data analysis, timely research and insights from Anthem’s innovative programs.
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