Use of telehealth among California adults rises significantly during pandemic and remains high after, UCLA study shows

California Health Interview Survey estimates show that 46.7% of California adults used telehealth in the past year 

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Tiffany Lopes 

Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and shutdowns, health care providers had to re-evaluate their care delivery methods leading to a surge in telehealth use, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

In 2022, 46.7% of adults used telehealth in the past year — slightly less than the 49% in 2021, but still nearly quadruple the roughly 12% who used telehealth in 2018 before the pandemic. 

“Health care delivery services have dramatically evolved as a result of the pandemic,” said Sean Tan, MPP, a senior public administration analyst at CHPR. “Telehealth is transforming the health care delivery landscape and creating opportunities for hybrid models of health care.”

Despite the continued popularity of telehealth, researchers discovered wide disparities in use among subpopulation groups in California. Latinx and Asian adults were less likely to use telehealth compared to white adults in California (41.5% and 45.2% vs. 51.3%).

Among other findings: 

  • The proportion of adults who had health insurance and used telehealth was twice that of adults without health insurance (48.4% vs. 21.0%, respectively). 
  • Older adults were more likely to use telehealth than young adults: More than half (54.5%) of adults 65 years and older used telehealth, compared to 35.8% of adults between the ages of 18 and 26. 
  • Top reasons adults used telehealth: For follow-ups or to access tests or procedure results (42.7%); addressing flu, cold, allergies, or infections (20.4%); managing chronic conditions such as arthritis, joint, or muscle pain (18.0%); mental or emotional health problems (17.5%); and general disease management (15.9%).
  • Adults in rural areas were less likely to use telehealth than adults living in urban areas (41.2% vs. 47.3%).
  • More than half (51.2%) of adults who spoke only English at home used telehealth, compared to adults who only spoke Spanish (38.3%), Chinese (38.5%), Vietnamese (33.0%), English and Spanish (39.9%), or English and Chinese (42.9%). 

“Access to telehealth could be an effective way to lessen the inequities we frequently see in health care systems, especially prior to the pandemic,” said Ninez A. Ponce, PhD, MPP, director of UCLA CHPR and principal investigator for CHIS. “However, gaps in access to care still exist among certain sociodemographic populations, and California policymakers should focus on providing equitable access to these services.”

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About the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) is one of the nation’s leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health policy information for California. UCLA CHPR improves the public’s health through high quality, objective, and evidence-based research and data that informs effective policymaking. UCLA CHPR is the home of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) and is part of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health​.