Trends in the Volume and Types of Primary Care Visits during the Two Years of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Israel

Oren Miron, Yael Wolff Sagy, Shlomit Yaron, Noga Ramot, Gil Lavie

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Background: The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a decrease in primary health care in-person visits and a simultaneous increase in virtual encounters. Objective: To quantify the change in the total volume of primary care visits and mix of visit types during the two years of the pandemic in Israel. Design: Cross-sectional study. Participants: All primary care visits by members of the largest healthcare organization in Israel, during three one-year periods: the pre-COVID-19 year (March 2019–February 2020), the first year of COVID-19 (March 2020–February 2021), and the second year of COVID-19 (March 2021–February 2022). Main measures: Total volume of primary care visits and mix of visit types. Results: More than 112 million primary care visits were included in the study. The total visit rate per 1000 members did not change significantly between the pre-COVID year (19) and the first COVID year (19.8), but was 21% higher in the second COVID-19 year (23). The rate of in-person visits per 1000 members decreased from 12.0 in the pre-COVID year to 7.7 in the first COVID year and then increased to 9.6 in the second. The rate of phone visits and asynchronous communication increased from 0.7 and 6.3, respectively, in the pre-COVID year, to 4.1 and 8, respectively, in the first COVID year, and remained unchanged in the second. There was substantial variation across age groups and sectors in the adoption of virtual platforms. Conclusions: The rapid introduction of virtual encounters in primary care tended to displace in-person visits in the first year of the pandemic, but they appear to have been additive in the second. This transition should be monitored, with the goal of ensuring appropriate planning efforts and resource allocation to deal with the potential added burden on medical staff. Efforts should be invested in encouraging the use of virtual platforms in patient groups that currently underutilize it, such as minorities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10601
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

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  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • low value care
  • primary care visits
  • telehealth
  • virtual care


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