Telemedicine — the delivery of care by a clinician in one location to a patient in another — is seen as a vital component of the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have urged physicians and other health care providers to use telemedicine, and both the federal government and private health plans have implemented numerous temporary regulatory and payment changes to facilitate its use.

Physicians initially responded to these changes. Based on a sample of more than 50,000 clinicians who are clients of Phreesia, a health care technology company where two of us (D.L. and H.H.) work, we saw a sudden and dramatic rise in telemedicine (see the chart below). From almost no telemedicine visits before the pandemic struck in the U.S., by early April almost 14% of the usual weekly number of pre-pandemic visits were being conducted via telemedicine. The assumption among many was that, after witnessing the benefits of telemedicine, physicians and patients would embrace it and growth would continue….

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