Assessment of Disparities in Digital Access Among Medicare Beneficiaries and Implications for Telemedicine

Roberts, Eric T.; Mehrotra, Ateev
JAMA Internal Medicine

In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Medicare temporarily expanded its coverage of telemedicine to all beneficiaries, included visits in the patient’s home, and began paying for audio-only visits at the same rate as video and in-person visits. Previously, Medicare (with a few exceptions) limited telemedicine coverage to video visits for rural beneficiaries and required video visits to take place at a medical facility, such as a physician’s office, rather than at a patient’s home.Access to technology at home and the ability to use technology may affect use of video or audio-only telemedicine visits by Medicare beneficiaries. Although evidence on the efficacy of video vs audio-only visits is lacking, audio-only visits might be inadequate in some situations, such as when visual monitoring or diagnosis is important for care. We examined disparities in digital access (ie, access at home to technology that enables video telemedicine visits) among Medicare beneficiaries by socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.