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Virtual Care Visits up 136 Times Among Anthem Medicare Advantage Members

Analysis  |  By Scott Mace  
   December 15, 2020

Visits in quarter ended May 2020 jump from 4.4K to 600K versus quarter in previous year.

Individuals enrolled in Anthem's affiliated Medicare Advantage (MA) plans during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic used virtual care substantially more than before, according to a new report from Anthem's Public Policy Institute.

By the numbers, 136 times more affiliated MA members used virtual health from March through May 2020 than in the same months in 2019. That's an increase from 4,400 to 600,000.

In its response to the pandemic, Anthem increased access to virtual care for video and phone-only visits. Coupled with social distancing and stay-at-home orders, consumers are accessing care differently now, the company said in a statement.

Essentially all the virtual services provided—98%—were within existing patient-provider relationships, Anthem said. Even so, the number of new patient encounters in March through May 2020 was larger than the total of all virtual services in the same period in 2019.

The largest group of primary diagnoses treated remotely were mental conditions and substance abuse disorders, Anthem said. Year-over-year, such virtual treatment grew more than 5,000%. Cardiovascular diagnoses topped the list of most commonly addressed physical health conditions. Musculoskeletal maladies followed, as did conditions related to endocrine and metabolic systems.

Older Anthem members, though they used more virtual services than in 2019, actually utilized a smaller share of such services in 2020 than Anthem had expected, based on their utilization in-person in 2019.

“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,” said Jennifer Kowalski, vice president of the Anthem Public Policy Institute.

Further information about the study is posted on the ThinkAnthem website, and downloadable copies of white papers from Anthem's Public Policy Institute also are available online.

Scott Mace is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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