Trends in telehealth and in-person transitional care management visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.J Am Geriatr Soc. 2021 10; 69(10):2745-2751.JA
Transitional care management (TCM) visits delivered following hospitalization have been associated with reductions in mortality, readmissions, and total costs; however, uptake remains low. We sought to describe trends in TCM visit delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cross-sectional study of ambulatory electronic health records from December 30, 2019 and January 3, 2021.
Forty four thousand six hundred and eighty-one patients receiving transitional care management services.
Weekly rates of in-person and telehealth TCM visits before COVID-19 was declared a national emergency (December 30, 2019 to March 15, 2020), during the initial pandemic period (March 16, 2020 to April 12, 2020) and later period (April 12, 2020 to January 3, 2021). Characteristics of patients receiving in-person and telehealth TCM visits were compared.
A total of 44,681 TCM visits occurred during the study period with the majority of patients receiving TCM visits age 65 years and older (68.0%) and female (55.0%) Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all TCM visits were conducted in-person. In the initial pandemic, there was an immediate decline in overall TCM visits and a rise in telehealth TCM visits, accounting for 15.4% of TCM visits during this period. In the later pandemic, the average weekly number of TCM visits was 841 and 14.0% were telehealth. During the initial and later pandemic periods, 73.3% and 33.6% of COVID-19-related TCM visits were conducted by telehealth, respectively. Across periods, patterns of telehealth use for TCM visits were similar for younger and older adults.
The study findings highlight a novel and sustained shift to providing TCM services via telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may reduce barriers to accessing a high-value service for older adults during a vulnerable transition period. Further investigations comparing outcomes of in-person and telehealth TCM visits are needed to inform innovation in ambulatory post-discharge care.