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Outpatient Visits Return to Pre-COVID Rates

Oct 19, 2020 9:57 am

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted outpatient care - numbers, scope, quality, etc, but a recent study suggests that while COVID has changed the scope of care, the numbers of outpatient visits have risen to near pre-pandemic numbers.

By April 2020, ambulatory care visits dropped by nearly 60 percent and it appears that a corrective rebound in outpatient visits began in June 2020. This current report from researchers at Harvard University, the Commonwealth Fund, and Phreesia, updates outpatient visit trends through October 10 using data from 50,000 providers (from 50 states, with an excess of 50 million outpatient visits annually) tracked by Phreesia.

Several takeaways from this report:

  • Outpatients visits to dermatologists, urologists, and PCPs are exceeding the prepandemic baseline (Rheumatology is within 2% of prepandemic numbers)
  • Older patients have been more likely to return to outpatient medicine, moreso than younger patients
  • Telemedicicine (moderate to heavy use) has dropped from 53% (April) to 28% (September) 
  • The more providers in a group, the greater the use of telemedicine (9.4% for 6+ providers vs. 4.3% for <6)
  • Rheumatology and Endocrinology are 2nd highest in telemedicine use (14%); Behavioral medicine leads the way (41% telemedicine visits)
outpatient visits pandemic COVID
Change in Ambulatory Outpatient Visits Since COVID-19 Onset









While these trends are encouraging, there remains several unknowns:

  • What has been the clinical impact of the pandemic on individual patient wellness
  • What will become of telemedicine?
  • What has been the overall financial impact of the pandemic on health care providers?


The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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