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Use of non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth grew nearly 1,400%

In 2018, non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth accounted for 84 percent of all telehealth claim lines.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

From 2014 to 2018, private insurance claim lines for non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth grew 1,393%, according to a new white paper on telehealth from FAIR Health, a national, independent nonprofit organization.

The study draws on data from FAIR Health's comprehensive repository of over 29 billion private healthcare claim records -- what it says is the largest in the country.

This was a greater increase than for all other types of telehealth studied, and for telehealth overall, and the increase was greater in urban than rural areas. Claim lines for non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth increased 1,227 percent in urban areas, and 897 percent in rural areas.

The four types of telehealth -- the remote provision of clinical services through telecommunications technology -- studied in the white paper were: provider-to-patient non-hospital-based telehealth (i.e., provider and patient communication not related to a hospital); provider-to-patient discharge telehealth (follow-up visits after discharge from an inpatient stay at a hospital); physician-to-patient-emergency department/inpatient telehealth (a patient in the hospital communicating with a physician via telehealth); and provider-to-provider telehealth (consultation between healthcare professionals).

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

Among the findings are that claim lines related to telehealth overall grew 624 percent from 2014 to 2018. In 2018, non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth accounted for 84 percent of all telehealth claim lines, compared with 52 percent in 2014.

In that same time period, the age group most associated with telehealth overall was that of people from ages 31-40, who accounted for 21 percent of the distribution of all telehealth claim lines. But most of the claim lines -- 82 percent -- for discharge-related provider-to-patient telehealth were associated with those 51 and older.

Sixty-five percent of all telehealth claim lines in that span were associated with women. But for telehealth visits associated with a hospital discharge, 53 percent of claim lines were submitted for women.

The top three reasons people sought treatment from a provider via non-hospital-based telehealth, from most to least common, were acute upper respiratory infections, mood disorders and anxiety, and other nonpsychotic mental disorders.

In 2018, the telehealth diagnosis with the highest rate of patients who had an in-person visit within 15 days of a non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth visit for the same or a very similar diagnosis was heart failure.

THE LARGER TREND

The telehealth white paper expands on a previous FAIR Health white paper that reported on telehealth and other alternative venues of care, such as urgent care centers and retail clinics.

New flexibilities for telehealth reimbursement and expected changes for this year and beyond are making its use more widespread.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com