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Telehealth Utilization in South Rose Nearly 13 Percent in August 2021 Compared to Prior Month

Smaller Increase Seen Nationally at Two Percent

COVID-19 Joined the Top Five Telehealth Diagnoses Nationally in August 2021, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker

NEW YORK, NY—November 2, 2021—Telehealth utilization in the South, measured as a percentage of all medical claim lines in that region, rose 12.9 percent from July to August 2021, increasing from 3.1 percent of medical claim lines in July to 3.5 percent in August. Telehealth utilization in August rose nationally (by 2.4 percent) and in all US census regions except the Midwest, but the growth in the South surpassed that in all other geographical areas. Reported by FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, the data represent the privately insured population, including Medicare Advantage and excluding Medicare Fee-for-Service and Medicaid.

Nationally and in the South, the increase in August halted two months of decline in telehealth utilization, in June and July. The August telehealth growth coincided with the peak of the surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant in the South. This may suggest that the increase in telehealth use has been propelled by patients and providers seeking a venue of care that reduced the risk of disease transmission.

COVID-19 itself joined the top five telehealth diagnoses nationally in August 2021, the first time it had done so since January 2021. While COVID-19 ranked at number five among telehealth diagnoses nationally in August, it ranked at number three in the South. The only region where it did not appear in the top five was the Northeast.

Mental health conditions remained the top-ranking telehealth diagnosis nationally and in every region, but from July to August 2021 this diagnosis declined in percentage share of all telehealth claim lines nationally and in every region. The decline, which had begun nationally from June to July, was greatest in the South, where mental health conditions’ share of telehealth claim lines fell from 50.1 percent in July to 47.5 percent in August. The decrease may have been related to having a greater share of nonmental health conditions, including COVID-19, move to telehealth because of the recent pandemic surge.

Among the top five mental health diagnoses, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appeared in August 2021 in the number five rank in the Northeast, displacing bipolar disorder. It was the first time in months that PTSD had ranked among the top five mental health diagnoses in any region but the Midwest, where it remained at number five in August.

Nationally in August 2021, CPT® 99441, physician telephone patient service, five to ten minutes of medical discussion, joined the top five telehealth procedure codes by utilization. Ranking at number five, it displaced CPT 90833, psychotherapy performed with evaluation and management visit, 30 minutes.

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: “As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker continues to shed light on changes in telehealth. This is one of many ways we pursue our healthcare transparency mission.”

For the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, click here.

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