Since the spring of 2020, the national, independent nonprofit FAIR Health has tracked month-to-month changes in telehealth utilization with its Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. Using FAIR Health’s comprehensive collection of telehealth data, this free, online tool has shed light on telehealth’s evolving role in the healthcare system and provided a greater understanding of telehealth utilization throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. To further illuminate telehealth’s growth, this brief provides a multiyear retrospective of the findings made available through the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. Focusing on the period from January 2020 to March 2022, it reports on monthly changes in telehealth’s utilization, top diagnoses and top procedure codes--in addition to other descriptive aspects of this venue of care--at national and regional levels. Supported by infographics with vivid data visualizations, the brief also shows how the Telehealth Tracker itself has evolved: focusing in the first year on a comparison of telehealth in 2019 versus 2020; changing in 2021 to an emphasis on month-to-month fluctuations; and adding new features in 2022, such as a Telehealth Cost Corner, in which cost information for a specific telehealth procedure code is presented. Among the key findings: (1) From March 2019 to March 2020, the percentage of national telehealth claim lines when compared to all medical services increased 4,347 percent. The increase was even greater from April 2019 to April 2020 (8,336 percent). (2) The top five telehealth diagnoses nationally in spring 2020 indicated that telehealth was being used for conditions that had not been among the top five the year before, including hypertension, joint/soft tissue diseases and issues, and developmental disorders. (3) In November 2020, COVID-19 appeared for the first time on one of the regional lists of top five telehealth diagnoses, ranking fourth in the Midwest; in December 2020, COVID-19 emerged as a top telehealth diagnosis nationally and in every region. (4) For 6 of the 12 months of 2021, telehealth utilization fell from the level of utilization in the prior month. Nevertheless, it remained much higher than before the pandemic. In December 2021, telehealth claim lines accounted for 4.9 percent of medical claim lines nationally, compared to 0.2 percent in December 2019. (5) Many changes in telehealth utilization were likely related to the course of the pandemic. For example, in spring and summer 2021, telehealth claim lines dropped as vaccination levels increased. In fall and winter 2021, however, telehealth utilization rose again as the Delta and Omicron variants led to increased COVID-19 cases. (6) Mental health conditions have been the most common telehealth diagnosis nationally throughout the pandemic. Consistent with that finding, in January 2022, social worker was the provider specialty rendering the most telehealth services (most commonly psychotherapy) nationally and in every region but the West. In every region, as in the nation as a whole, three of the top five provider specialties were related to mental health: social worker, psychiatrist and psychologist. (7) In January 2022, CPT2 90837, one hour of psychotherapy, ranked highest among telehealth procedure codes nationally and in every region.
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