COVID-19 Resources from FAIR Health Spotlighted in Webcast
On July 16, FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd hosted a webcast on FAIR Health’s resources related to COVID-19. Entitled “Using FAIR Health Data to Shed Light on the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the webcast attracted hundreds of attendees throughout the healthcare sector, including payors, government officials, consultants, providers and researchers.
The webcast began by presenting FAIR Health’s series of research studies on the COVID-19 pandemic. In our first study in March, Ms. Gelburd recounted, we projected US costs for COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization, and delved into aspects of telehealth services. At that time, no claims were yet associated with COVID-19, so we based our projections on data for similar diseases. Using ICD-10 procedure codes and revenue codes for influenza and pneumonia, we projected the total average charge per COVID-19 patient requiring an inpatient stay as $73,300 and the total average estimated allowed amount per commercially insured patient as $38,221.
Given the widespread attention this first data brief received, Ms. Gelburd said, FAIR Health released a second study in May. This time we focused on the impact of COVID-19 on revenue and utilization in hospitals and health systems. We did so by comparing the first quarter of 2020, when COVID-19 was beginning to surge in the United States, to the first quarter of 2019. We found that March was the month in first quarter 2020 when COVID-19 had its greatest impact. Facilities in the Northeast, the hardest-hit region at the time, showed greater declines in revenue than those in the nation as a whole.
In a third study, released in June, FAIR Health examined the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare professionals’ revenue and utilization. We found that nationally, from March 2019 to March 2020, utilization of professional services decreased 65 percent and professional revenue based on total estimated allowed amounts decreased 45 percent. From April 2019 to April 2020, utilization fell 68 percent and revenue 48 percent.
Our fourth study, released in July, spotlighted key characteristics of patients diagnosed with COVID-19, including age, gender, rural versus urban area, venue of care where first diagnosed, comorbidities of hospitalized patients and median costs of hospitalization. The characteristics were analyzed nationally and by US census region from the period January-May 2020. The study found that, nationally, COVID-19 was most commonly associated with the age group 51-60, which accounted for 30 percent of the distribution of claim lines with this diagnosis. Ms. Gelburd noted, however, that the average age of new COVID-19 patients may have dropped since our study’s January-May time frame.
Ms. Gelburd stated that FAIR Health was planning more COVID-19-related studies, including one focusing on the impact of the pandemic on the dental industry and one on telehealth.
Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker
Ms. Gelburd turned next to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, which is documenting the evolution of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning with January 2020, the tracker offers monthly statistics on telehealth nationally and in each US census region. The impact of the pandemic started to be clearly evident in March 2020, when the national volume of telehealth claim lines increased 4,347 percent compared with March 2019. That increase nearly doubled—to 8,336 percent—from April 2019 to April 2020. The increase was even greater in the Northeast, reaching 26,209 percent from April 2019 to April 2020. Other telehealth data points in the tracker include top five procedure codes, top five diagnoses and urban versus rural usage.
To complement the telehealth tracker, Ms. Gelburd said, FAIR Health is preparing the September launch of a new benchmark module that will offer a window into billed charges for hundreds of telehealth procedures. This module will be able to help inform fee schedule development, provider network development, policy making with respect to reimbursement and parity practices, and consumer transparency initiatives, among other uses.
FAIR Health benchmarks valuing COVID-19 testing and specimen collection codes were just introduced this year, Ms. Gelburd remarked. These benchmarks have been integrated into several of our existing products, as appropriate, including our medical, outpatient facility, HCPCS and HCPCS facility benchmarks. We have also combined them into a single COVID-19 benchmark product available in file format and through our web-based query tool, FH® Online.
FAIR Health’s COVID-19 resources are easily found together in a single location on our website, Ms. Gelburd said. They include our research studies, Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker and information about benchmarks, as well as links to media coverage of our resources and our own bylined articles on COVID-19-related topics.
To close the webcast, Ms. Gelburd touched on some of the many lingering questions about the pandemic’s implications for our healthcare system and patient health. How will the pandemic alter healthcare utilization? Will the current increases in telehealth persist after the pandemic? What kinds of conditions might be exacerbated because people postponed obtaining certain types of healthcare services? Much remains to be discovered and understood, said Ms. Gelburd, adding that FAIR Health stands poised to help the healthcare community further that effort.
To view the free, archived webcast, click here.