TUESDAY, Nov. 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) — High availability of telehealth at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) has been associated with better care engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic for patients Medicaid enrollees who had mental health diagnoses, according to a research letter published online Nov. 15 in Open JAMA Network.
Megan B. Cole, Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Public Health, and colleagues assessed whether the availability of telehealth at the FQHC level was associated with visitation rates for 11,267 patients with mental health diagnoses ( eg, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder) enrolled in Medicaid. The analysis included data from adult patients (ages 18 to 64) enrolled in Medicaid with any basic mental health diagnosis seen at the Community Care Cooperative, the largest FQHC-based accountable care organization in the United States.
Researchers found that visit rates declined in all FQHCs during the COVID-19 pandemic, although high availability of telehealth was associated with a larger relative increase in visit rates among patients with mental health diagnoses (incidence rate ratio, 2.07) versus lower availability of telehealth. The results were similar for the specific diagnoses of depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders or mood. Additionally, high availability of telehealth was associated with a 7.67 percentage point relative increase in the likelihood of having a follow-up visit within 30 days of a mental health-related ED visit.
“This study suggests that care delivery models that support telehealth in the mental health care setting may be associated with better engagement of Medicaid-enrolled patients,” the authors write.