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Telehealth claims increased significantly between April 2019 and 2020, report shows

Every month this year telehealth usage increased, but it wasn't until the pandemic that the numbers skyrocketed.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

The volume of telehealth claims lines has increased by more than 8,335% between April last year and April of this year, according to FAIR Health's Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker.

The data can be broken down by region, which revealed that the Northeast part of the United States had the largest increase of telehealth claims, with a 26,209% increase between April of this year and last year.

That was followed by the Midwest, South and West, which increased by 6,753%, 6,038% and 3,967%, respectively.

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The number one diagnosis of telehealth claims in the U.S. was for mental health conditions. This year, they made up for about 34% of all telehealth claim lines.

Other diagnoses this year included joint and soft tissue diseases, hypertension, acute respiratory diseases and infections, and skin infections.

The data also showed that telehealth was more common in urban areas than in rural areas. In 2020, over 13% of medical claim lines came from urban areas, compared to roughly 8% in rural ones.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

Since January of this year, FAIR Health has tracked monthly telehealth usage using its database of more than 31 billion privately billed medical and dental claims.

Each month this year, there was an increase in telehealth claims. However, it wasn't until March and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that the numbers started to skyrocket.

That month, telehealth claims increased by over 4,346% compared to the year before. When looking at February, there was a 121% increase between 2019 and 2020.

THE LARGER TREND

It was around the same time that the government relaxed its rules around telehealth that its usage numbers began to escalate.

Now, many stakeholders are hoping that the increased use of telehealth becomes the norm even after the pandemic.

Last week, a group of 340 organizations signed a letter to Congress trying to get telehealth policies to become permanent.

That letter followed a proposed rule from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services that would make telehealth services permanent for home health.

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org