Mar 16, 2021 - Health

Telehealth usage occurred mostly in urban, wealthy areas, study says

Illustration of a first aid emoji in a text marked "not delivered"
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Affluent urban areas saw the biggest uptick in telehealth usage over the past year, according to a new study from RAND.

Why it matters: Experts have hailed telemedicine, in part, for its potential to help rural patients who would have to travel long distances for an in-person appointment. But the study suggests that telehealth hasn't closed the rural-urban access gap even as its overall use has soared.

By the numbers: Metropolitan areas had about 50 telemedicine visits per 10,000 people, compared to about 31 visits per 10,000 people in rural areas, according to the study.

  • Patients in counties with low poverty levels had about 48 telehealth visits per 10,000 people versus 15 per 10,000 people in high-poverty areas.
  • The findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, based on an analysis of more than 6 million insurance claims from employer-based plans.

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