Since the beginning of the pandemic, mental health status has been the most common diagnosis in telemedicine across the country, and recently reached 61.2% of all virtual care claims.
From August to September 2021, the percentage of mental health status in all telemedicine claims across the country increased. FAIR Health’s Monthly Telemedicine Area Tracker Established.
Tom Kiesau, senior partner of Chartis Group, said that although most virtual doctor interactions have returned to a lower rate, virtual behavioral health visits will only continue to increase.
“There are no broader social perceptions that accompany the challenges faced by people seeking mental health care,” Kiesau said. “Historically, in a virtual environment, it is protected and private.”
In terms of mental health services, telemedicine helps people overcome stigma, easier access to medical services and more consistent medical services, said Krista Drobac, executive director of the Connected Medical Alliance.
FAIR Health uses data from private insurance groups including Medicare Advantage to measure the development of telemedicine each month since May 2020.The data also showed that the national telemedicine utilization rate accounted for the percentage of all medical claims. In August and September, following the Months of refusal to use.
As COVID-19 variants and surges slowly began to drive patients away from in-person visits, the overall telemedicine usage rate rose to 4.4% of all medical claims in September. Although virtual care appointments in the Midwest and West have increased, the number of people in the Northeast has decreased, while usage in the South has not changed.
Drobach said that the reduction in telemedicine use is not a bad thing in itself, because industry experts have always expected that as patients return to in-person visits, the level of telemedicine will decline. What matters is the ability to pursue virtual options.
“Our expectations for how much healthcare people will use remain the same,” she said. “It’s just that the combination of the way they pursue healthcare is changing. This is a good thing.”
Kiesau said that across the country, healthcare customers mostly take a passive attitude towards telemedicine, letting doctors decide on their own products, or they are investing in and focusing on consumer virtual experiences.
“Some organizations are making more consistent efforts to promote patients’ digital access and digital capabilities, which is increasing their share of virtual interactions,” he said.
In August, COVID-19 accounted for 1.5% to 3.5% of claims in every region except the Northeast, and in September, the virus fell out of the top five telemedicine diagnoses in the country.
Drobach said the decline may be due to more people being vaccinated and fewer acute symptoms.
Nationwide, developmental disabilities climbed from fourth to third place in telemedicine diagnosis, and substance use disorders became part of the top five in September.
Among the top five telemedicine program codes ranked by usage rate, the 30-minute psychotherapy visit, evaluation, and management ranked fifth nationwide in September. This program replaces five to ten minutes of talking with a doctor on the phone.
Kiesau said that at this stage of the pandemic, patients are still hesitant to return to the office for treatment, but are highly satisfied with the telemedicine option.
He said that over time, the industry will change, so healthcare institutions that provide the most flexibility in virtual and face-to-face services will accumulate more patients.
“Consumers will ultimately decide how to deliver and transform their business based on their needs for convenience and simplicity,” Kiesau said.