This report was commissioned by the Health Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in June 2021, to be delivered back to the Committee in June 2022, with the aim of assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use of telemedicine in OECD countries.

The report provides an update to a Health Working Paper published in January 2020, which showed that, while care delivered via telemedicine could be both safe and effective, telemedicine services represented only a small fraction of all health care activity and spending. At that time, providers and patients seeking to use telemedicine faced regulatory uncertainty, limited financing and reimbursement, and unclear governance. Just a few weeks later, in response to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, governments across the OECD adopted broad non-pharmaceutical interventions to limit social contacts and mobility. With in-person care heavily restricted, governments and providers moved quickly to expand remote care services. Consequently, the number of remote consultations skyrocketed. The sudden increase in virtual care has had clear benefits, preserving access to and continuity of care. Yet, it has also laid bare the limits of remote care and added to concerns that some teleconsultations constitute low value care.

This report provides an overview of national policies to implement and scale up remote consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic and tries to quantify the resulting boom in the use of telemedicine services; the impact that the massive shift to virtual care has had on health care system performance; and policy priorities for remote care as countries move to a post-acute stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is of course important to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, that data and information are still developing, and the priorities for policy makers highlighted here take this context into account.

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