From Safety Net to Solid Ground: One in Three Adults Used Telehealth During the First Six Months of the Pandemic, but Unmet Needs for Care Persisted

Older man using a laptop.

Telehealth increased during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but unmet needs for care persisted.



The Issue

Continued reliance on telehealth use could exacerbate health care inequities, and the resources and technology required for telehealth may be less accessible for people with low incomes or living in rural areas.

Key Findings

  • Telehealth now constitutes 6 percent of outpatient visits, compared with less than 1 percent before the pandemic.

  • One-third of adults had a telehealth visit in the first six months of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Adults who were more likely to use telehealth than their respective counterparts include those in fair or poor health, adults with multiple chronic conditions, and Black and Hispanic/Latinx adults.

  • Those who were more likely to want a telehealth visit, but not received one, were more likely to have an unmet need for care because of the pandemic.

  • Fewer than 10 percent of adults did not see a provider because they did not want a telehealth visit and in-person visits were not offered.


Despite the increased use of telehealth for access to health care during the pandemic, this brief shows unmet needs for care persisted, especially among adults in fair or poor health, individuals with chronic conditions, Black and Hispanic/Latinx adults, and people covered by public insurance.


About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Visit the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center for more information specific to its staff and its recent research.