Senior man sitting at home using digital tablet for video calling. Mature man having online consultation with doctor.

A new study has found that patients receiving care for a new health condition through telehealth fared just as well as those who consulted with a provider through inpatient visits.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed private insurance records from approximately 40 million people from July through December 2020. Patients who received telehealth visits did not require more unplanned hospital or emergency department visits 14 days after their initial consultation than patients who consulted with medical providers face-to-face, researchers learned. 

However, there were a few exceptions. Patients suffering from upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and sore throats who first received care through telehealth tended to visit emergency departments later than those who were treated for those ailments during in-person visits. The study found a significant number of telehealth patients with acute respiratory conditions who required in-person follow-up visits were suspected of having COVID-19. 

“These findings suggest that the concern that patients seen virtually will need to return for in-person follow-ups more often than those seen in person was unfounded in most cases,” study senior author, Jonathan Weiner, DrPH, co-director of the Center for Population Health Information Technology and professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, said. 

The study did not consider Medicare, Medicaid or uninsured patients who could have different needs than those who were included in the study. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and private insurers allowed for wider use of telemedicine. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which President Joe Biden signed into law in mid-March, extends certain Medicare flexibilities for Medicare patients for 151 days beyond the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The PHE is currently scheduled to expire in mid-July 2022.

The Telehealth Extension Act introduced late last year by a bipartisan team of lawmakers would provide permanent access to telehealth services to people across the U.S. by eliminating geographic and site restrictions on where patients can receive approved telehealth services.

This article originally appeared on McKnights Home Care