In October, FAIR Health's Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker showed telehealth claim lines increased 3,806 percent nationally from July 2019 to July 2020, rising from 0.15 percent of medical claim lines in July 2019 to 6.00 percent in July 2020. The data represent the privately insured population, excluding Medicare and Medicaid.
While increasing greatly from 2019 to 2020, telehealth claim lines actually fell 12 percent nationally on a month-to-month basis, from 6.85 percent of medical claim lines in June 2020 to 6.00 percent in July 2020. Trends in the four U.S. census regions (Midwest, Northeast, South and West) were similar to those in the nation as a whole. In each region, there were large percent increases in volume of claim lines from July 2019 to July 2020, but small drops in volume of claim lines from June 2020 to July 2020.
Higher telehealth utilization from March to July 2020 in comparison with the same months in 2019 is likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March and April 2020, many states prohibited in-person rendering of elective procedures, making telehealth an attractive alternative. Many of these prohibitions expired in May as states began to open up, perhaps accounting for the decline in the telehealth share of total medical claim lines in May, June and July relative to April. However, that decline slowed from month to month, and telehealth usage remained high by comparison with 2019.
In another notable finding of the July Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, for the first time this year, substance use disorders emerged as one of the top five telehealth diagnoses, though only in the Northeast, where this diagnosis ranked fifth. In July, mental health conditions continued to be the number one telehealth diagnosis nationally and in every region, as they had been since March 2020. Nationally, mental health conditions represented 45 percent of telehealth claim lines in July 2020, compared to 37 percent in July 2019.
However, the percentage of telehealth claim lines accounted for by mental health conditions nationally in July 2020 stabilized, increasing monthly by one percentage point (from 44 percent in June to 45 percent in July) after larger increases in May and June.
Launched in May as a free service, the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker uses FAIR Health data to track how telehealth is evolving from month to month. An interactive map of the four US census regions allows the user to view an infographic on telehealth in a specific month in the nation as a whole or in individual regions. In addition to data on the volume of claim lines and on diagnoses, each infographic includes findings on urban versus rural usage and the top five telehealth procedure codes. Go to fairhealth.org to access the monthly tracker.