Recent data derived from Fair Health’s ‘Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker’, has illustrated a near two percent increase in the utilization of telehealth amongst individuals who are privately insured for their healthcare. This increase may be attribute to a rising figure of US citizens being diagnosed with Covid-19 remotely, a method of diagnosing patients that has recently risen in popularity again.
The Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker was introduced in late Spring of the first year of the pandemic, to be used as a free tool, leverages FAIR Health data to track how telehealth changes from month to month. Using the tracker, it is possible to examine a telehealth info graphs for each month in a selected region or using an interactive map of the four US census areas. Each infographic displays the top five telemedicine procedure codes, diagnoses, and specializations for that month as well as variations in the percentage of medical claim lines that are telehealth-related from month to month.
Towards the end of last year, telehealth visits were billed for 5.3% of medical claim lines, a small increase of 0.1% from the previous month, when nationwide telehealth utilization fell by 3.7%. In addition to Medicare Advantage visits, Fair Health analyzes commercially insured medical bills, leaving out both Medicaid and Medicare fee-for-service. The top five telehealth illnesses were still dominated by mental health issues, accounting for sixty four percent of diagnoses. Acute respiratory illness and infections were the second most frequent diagnoses, occurring in 5.1% of visits. Since Fair Health started recording medical claim data in January three years ago, mental health issues have occupied the top diagnosis spot, accounting for approximately thirty percent of all virtual diagnoses.
As the COVID-19 public health emergency nears conclusion, with the official end of the emergency slated for May 2023, it is evident that mental health telehealth services are still highly popular among US citizens. The PHE ensured provisions for virtual medical care, including as a waiver of HIPAA privacy requirements that permitted providers to transfer sensitive patient data and authorized physicians to use online video platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. Congress recently extended Medicare telehealth benefits for two years in December 2022, which detailed a provision that pushed back the requirement for in person mental health screenings to take place for treatment to commence.