A new data note reports on community health center telehealth utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic. Analyzing data from HRSA’s weekly COVID-19 survey, researchers document that during the peak of health center telehealth utilization (week of April 24th), 54 percent of community health center visits, on average, were conducted virtually. This percentage had fallen by half as of October 16th, with virtual visits accounting for just over a quarter of visits that week. States with a higher percentage of the population residing in rural areas tended to have a lower proportion of health center visits conducted virtually. Among those were more rural states in the Midwest census region (KS,NE,SD,) as well as and the West (ID, UT and WY) and the South (AR, GA, SC, OK, WV) regions. States reporting a greater proportion of health center visits conducted virtually tended to be those with less rural populations and located in the Northeast census region (CT, DC DE, MA, RI) and in the West ( AZ, CA, HI, NM, OR). While telehealth utilization appears to be widespread, there may be important differences in the availability of services by location, with health centers in more rural states less likely to offer virtual visits. Barriers and challenges to expanding telehealth, including payment parity, cost, and the availability of robust infrastructure, should be the focus of analysis as well as policies to improve access to care in all communities.
The data note was produced by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative.
Download the data note.