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After Three Months of Decline, Telehealth Utilization Stabilizes in May 2021

Substance Use Disorders Join the Top Five National Telehealth Diagnoses in May, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker

NEW YORK, NY—August 9, 2021—After three months of decline, telehealth utilization stabilized in May 2021, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. Telehealth utilization, measured as a percentage of all medical claim lines, rose 2 percent nationally from April to May 2021, increasing from 4.9 percent of medical claim lines in April to 5 percent in May. By comparison, telehealth claim lines fell nationally as a percentage of medical claim lines each month from February to April. The data represent the privately insured population, including Medicare Advantage and excluding Medicare Fee-for-Service and Medicaid.

In two of the four US census regions in May 2021, telehealth claim lines rose as a percentage of medical claim lines just as they did nationally—5.6 percent in the South and 4.8 percent in the West. In the other two regions, there was a decrease—5.4 percent in the Midwest and 1.7 percent in the Northeast.

In May 2021, substance use disorders joined the top five telehealth diagnoses nationally for the first time, in fifth place. Substance use disorders also remained in the top five in the Midwest and Northeast, as had been the case in April. The pattern was consistent with reports of increased misuse of opioids and stimulants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The percentage of telehealth claim lines accounted for by mental health conditions rose nationally and in every region in May 2021. Mental health conditions remained in the number one spot among telehealth diagnoses nationally and in every region.

Acute respiratory diseases and infections climbed in the national rankings of telehealth diagnoses from number four to number three, joining the top five diagnoses in the Northeast and West. The diagnosis had already been in the top five in the Midwest and South in April, and continued there in May. As in April, this suggested a return to non-COVID respiratory conditions, such as colds and bronchitis, as cases of COVID-19 fell.

In May 2021, the top five telehealth procedure codes by utilization remained the same as in April nationally and in every region but the Midwest. There, CPT® 99213, an established patient outpatient visit with a total time of 20-29 minutes, fell from second to fourth place.

About the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker

Launched in May 2020 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. Each infographic shows month-to-month changes in volume of telehealth claim lines, top five telehealth procedure codes and top five telehealth diagnoses (or diagnostic categories), along with that month’s top five granular diagnoses within the most common diagnostic category.

FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd stated: “FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker continues to reveal changes in telehealth as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. This is one of many ways we pursue our healthcare transparency mission.”

For the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, click here.

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