Here's how much outpatient visits have plummeted amid COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard analysis shows

hospital building with a sign that says outpatient
A new study examines the impact of COVID-19 on outpatient visits. (Getty/Mark Winfrey)

Plenty of physicians' offices have already reported steep drops in business due to the  COVID-19 pandemic, but now new data show just how much outpatient visits have plummeted.

Researchers at Harvard University and health tech company Phreesia analyzed visit volumes for 50,000 providers and found that patient trips to ambulatory practices decreased by 60% in mid-March and have remained low through April.

The significant decrease in visits is driven both by providers who want to avoid transmission in their practices and patients who are seeking to avoid exposure, according to the report.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how outpatient care is delivered in health care practices," the researchers wrote.

RELATED: Half of physicians now using telehealth as COVID-19 changes practice operations

The researchers found large declines in in-person visits nationwide, but the largest drops were reported in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. 

Practices that saw the largest drops in in-person patient visits were certain specialties such as ophthalmology, which saw visits drop by 79% as of the week of April 5. Meanwhile, other types of care, such as adult primary care, saw smaller declines.

Telelmedicine visits increased in tandem with the drop in in-person visits, according to the report, but not enough to offset the dramatic decreases. By April 12, in-person visits were down by 67%, and overall visits for care had decreased by 54%.

The study found that 30% of ambulatory practice visits are delivered through telehealth as of mid-April.

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