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Telehealth Claims Up Nearly 3K% in December

Analysis  |  By John Commins  
   March 08, 2021

Mental health continues to be the No. 1 telehealth diagnosis.

Telehealth claims were up 2,817% nationally in December, when compared with claims in pre-COVID-19 December 2019, with mental health conditions continuing as the top remote diagnosis for the month, a new analysis of privately billed medical claims shows.

FAIR Health's Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker for December 2020, which excludes Medicare and Medicaid, also found that COVID-19 for the first time became on of the top five telehealth diagnoses nationally and regionally.

Overall, telehealth's December year-over-year increase in claims grew from 0.22% of all medical claims in December 2019 to 6.51% of all medical claims in December 2020. The telehealth share of all privately billed claims in December 2020 rose 8.3% when compared with November.

Data from the four U.S. census regions tracked by the report -- Midwest, Northeast, South and West -- were like that of the entire nation. Each region had big increases in telehealth volumes from December 2019 to December 2020, with smaller bumps from November to December 2020 everywhere but the Midwest, where claims volumes fell 0.3%.

"Higher telehealth utilization from March to December 2020 in comparison with the same months in 2019 was likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as patients and providers turned to telehealth as a way of reducing the risk of disease transmission associated with in-person visits," the report said.

The Tracker also found that COVID-19 for the first time became one of the top five telehealth diagnoses nationally and in every region.

"Its prominence may reflect the surging number of COVID-19 cases and relatively fewer telehealth visits for other conditions, such as the flu, cases of which have been unusually low this season," the report said.

From November to December 2020, mental health conditions continued to be the number one telehealth diagnosis nationally and in every region. Exposure to communicable diseases remained number two on the national list of telehealth diagnoses and in the top five in all regions.

"Exposure to communicable diseases was likely related to the pandemic, as patients contacted providers via telehealth out of concern they had been exposed to COVID-19," the report said.

The report also found that there was no change in the top five procedure codes by utilization, and no changes nationally or by region from November to December 2020 in the top five procedure codes, even though there had been changes in at least some regions in previous months.

"This suggests that the telehealth procedures being performed might have stabilized by December," the report said.

“Higher telehealth utilization from March to December 2020 in comparison with the same months in 2019 was likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The telehealth share of all privately billed claims in December 2020 rose 8.3% when compared with November.

Telehealth claims represented 0.22% of all claims in December 2019 and 6.51% in December 2020.

Data from the four U.S. census regions tracked by the report were like that of the entire nation.

Each region had big increases in telehealth volumes from December 2019 to December 2020.


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