Telemedicine Utilized By Half of Patients With MS During COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of patients with MS utilized telemedicine to receive care.

About half of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) sought MS-related care via telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the highest usage reported in Massachusetts, Vermont, and California, according to study results presented at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2023, held in San Diego, California, from February 23 to 25.

Continuous specialty medical care is necessary for patients with MS to manage their symptoms. However, the COVID-19 pandemic posed barriers when it came to access. Although telemedicine helped expand access to care, its impact on commercially insured patients with MS is not clear.

Researchers in the United States from Genentech and the Cleveland Clinic conducted a cross-sectional study from January 1, 2019 until December 31, 2021. They obtained data from US PharMetrics Plus commercial claims with at least 1 current procedural code indicating telemedicine use for at least 1 inpatient or 2 outpatient visits related to ICD-10 diagnosis codes for adults with MS 30 days or more apart.

In particular, they focused on telemedicine use during the first 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 30,113 of 52,475 (57.4%) adults with MS used telemedicine, while this number declined slightly to 24,895 of 57,442 (43.3%) in 2021. Around 86.6% of telemedicine visits in 2020 and 89.1% in 2021 involved at least 1 interactive audio or video component.

Approximately half of people with MS in a commercially insured population used TM during the pandemic; its use varied most notably by region, state and Medicare enrollment.

Most telemedicine users with MS were women (78% vs. 73%), were Medicare beneficiaries (13% vs. 8.4%), and were living in western (15% vs. 10%) and eastern (22% vs 17%) regions of the US compared with nonusers. Patients with MS living in Massachusetts (82.6%), Vermont (81.6%), and California (78.7%) used telemedicine the most.

Approximately 77.4% of adults with MS in 2020 and 70.2% in 2021 used telemedicine to communicate with their providers about MS-related issues. Additionally, 84.6% of these telemedicine visits in 2020 and 86.6% in 2021 involved already established patients with MS.

Interestingly, only 28.4% of the 145,514 total MS-related telemedicine services were provided by a neurologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telemedicine visits accounted for 5.9% of all health care claims for patients with MS in 2020 and 4% in 2021.

“Approximately half of people with MS in a commercially insured population used TM [telemedicine] during the pandemic; its use varied most notably by region, state, and Medicare enrollment,” the researchers concluded.

They suggest further investigation will help fill in the gaps in telemedicine access and provide insight into its long-term use among patients with MS.


Patel AM, Schuldt R, Boudreau DM, win N, Cobb BR, McGinley M. A cross-sectional study of telemedicine use during the COVID-19 pandemic in people with multiple sclerosis. Presented at: ACTRIMS Forum 2023; February 23-25; San Diego, CA. Poster 100.