From 2016 to 2017, private insurance claim lines for services rendered via telehealth -- as a percentage of all medical claim lines -- grew 53 percent nationally, more than any other venue of care, according to FH Health Indicators, a white paper published by the nonprofit FAIR Health.
Like the inaugural release a year ago, this year's edition is intended to assist the full spectrum of healthcare stakeholders by providing clarity in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.
Focusing on alternative places of service -- retail clinics, urgent care centers, telehealth and ambulatory surgery centers -- as well as emergency rooms, the white paper evaluates changes in utilization, geographic and demographic factors, diagnoses, procedures and costs.
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From 2016 to 2017, by comparison with telehealth's 53 percent growth rate, national usage of urgent care centers increased 14 percent, that of retail clinics 7 percent and of ASCs 6 percent. The usage of ERs decreased 2 percent.
From 2008 to 2017, urgent care center usage grew 1,434 percent, more than seven times that of ERs (194 percent). This was a continuation of the trend from 2007 to 2016 reported in last year's edition, when urgent care center usage growth also had been more than seven times greater than ER growth.
In 2017, as in 2016, more claim lines were submitted for women than for men in all adult age groups in the places of service in which FAIR Health studied gender-related patterns -- retail clinics, urgent care centers, telehealth, ASCs and ERs.
WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW
The FH Medical Price Index reports shifts in costs and facilitates useful comparisons among medical prices in six procedure categories: professional evaluation and management, excluding that which is performed in a hospital setting; hospital E&M; medicine; pathology and laboratory; and radiology.
The reports reflect professional fees and related costs; they do not reflect facility fees.
In the first edition, the FH Medical Price Index presented an overview from May 2012 to May 2017. In the new edition, the indices are extended to November 2018. Of the six categories, hospital E&Ms had the greatest percent increase in billed charge amount index for the period November 2017 to November 2018 -- 7 percent.
Hospital E&Ms and radiology had the greatest percent increase in allowed amount indices in that period, both 7 percent, while the radiology charge amount index grew 7 percent.
Telehealth harnesses technology to provide remote care via video conferencing and other means, and is proving to be more and more effective, especially in rural areas that lack brick-and-mortar care options. Elderly patients often find it useful since it eliminates the need for transportation.
But as the model gains traction, the focus is shifting away from the novelty of connected devices and new technology and more toward providing patients with top notch care -- and giving providers, physicians and nurses alike, the power to deliver it effectively.