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During COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine was a strategy to facilitate healthcare service delivery minimizing the risk of direct exposure among people. In Thailand, the National Health Security Office has included telemedicine services under the Universal Coverage Scheme to support social distancing policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This study aimed to determine the patterns of telemedicine service use during major COVID-19 outbreaks including Alpha, Delta, and Omicron in Thailand. We retrospectively analyzed a dataset of telemedicine e-claims from the National Health Security Office, which covers services reimbursed under the Universal Coverage Scheme between December 2020 and August 2022. An interrupted time-series analysis, Pearson correlation analysis and binary logistic regression were performed. Almost 70% of the patients using telemedicine services were over 40 years old. Most patients used services for mental health problems (25.6%) and major noncommunicable diseases, including essential hypertension (12.6%) and diabetes mellitus (9.2%). The daily number of using telemedicine service was strongly correlated with the number of COVID-19 new cases detected. An immediate change in the trend of using telemedicine was detected at the onset of outbreaks along with the surge of infection. The follow-up use of telemedicine services was not substantial among female, older adults patients and those with non-communicable diseases except mental health problems, and infectious diseases. Strategies need to be developed to reinforced healthcare resources for telemedicine during the surge of outbreaks and sustain the use of telemedicine services for chronic and infectious diseases, regardless of the pandemic, and promote the efficiency of healthcare systems.

Learn more: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00469580241246466