NEW YORK, June 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Telehealth claim lines1 increased 4,347 percent nationally from 0.17 percent of medical claim lines in March 2019 to 7.52 percent in March 2020, according to new data from FAIR Health's Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. The data represent the privately insured population, excluding Medicare and Medicaid. In an indication that the growth was related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase was even greater in the Northeast, where the pandemic hit hardest in March. Telehealth claim lines grew 15,503 percent in the Northeast, from 0.07 percent of medical claim lines in March 2019 to 11.07 percent in March 2020.
Telehealth had already been growing in recent years, but even faster growth has been predicted as a result of COVID-19. Telehealth permits healthcare services to be delivered without in-person contact, reducing the risk of disease transmission, and frees up in-person healthcare resources for COVID-19 patients. In addition, with fewer elective procedures occurring around the country due to widespread restrictions, the telehealth share of total medical claim lines was expected to increase.
Telehealth growth from February 2019 to February 2020, before the rapid escalation of the pandemic in the United States, was substantially lower. Nationally, the increase as a percentage of medical claim lines in that period was 121 percent; in the Northeast, it was 174 percent.
Telehealth grew markedly from March 2019 to March 2020 in other US census regions, but not as much as in the Northeast. In the West, the increase as a percentage of medical claim lines was 1,986 percent; in the Midwest, 2,842 percent; and in the South, 3,427 percent.
Other notable findings of the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker concern diagnoses. From March 2019 to March 2020, acute respiratory diseases and infections decreased as a percentage of telehealth claim lines nationally and in all regions except the West. In March, there is typically a drop from February in acute respiratory diagnoses as a result of the seasonality of influenza, but this drop from March to March may indicate that many people with acute respiratory symptoms, fearing they had COVID-19, preferred this year to see a physician in person.
Nationally, hypertension was one of the top five telehealth diagnoses in March 2020 whereas it was not in March 2019 or in February 2020. Increased issues with blood pressure for people with hypertension may be related to increased stress during the pandemic. Another factor may be increased telemonitoring of patients with hypertension so they do not need to go into the physician's office to be monitored.
Launched in May as a free service, the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker uses FAIR Health data to track how telehealth is evolving on a monthly basis. An interactive map of the four US census regions allows the user to view an infographic on telehealth in a specific month in each region, or in the nation as a whole. In addition to data on the volume of claim lines and the top five diagnoses, each infographic includes findings on urban vs. rural usage and the top five procedure codes.
FAIR Health is a national, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information. FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd stated: "In this period of change, FAIR Health's Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker opens a timely window on how telehealth is being transformed. It is one of several ways we are seeking to make our data useful to healthcare stakeholders as the COVID-19 crisis continues."
For the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, click here.
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About FAIR Health
FAIR Health, a national, independent nonprofit organization that qualifies as a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, is dedicated to bringing transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information through data products, consumer resources and health systems research support. FAIR Health possesses the nation's largest collection of private healthcare claims data, which includes over 31 billion claim records contributed by payors and administrators who insure or process claims for private insurance plans covering more than 150 million individuals. FAIR Health licenses its privately billed data and data products—including benchmark modules, data visualizations, custom analytics and market indices—to commercial insurers and self-insurers, employers, providers, hospitals and healthcare systems, government agencies, researchers and others. Certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as a national Qualified Entity, FAIR Health also receives data representing the experience of all individuals enrolled in traditional Medicare Parts A, B and D; FAIR Health houses data on Medicare Advantage enrollees in its private claims data repository. FAIR Health can produce insightful analytic reports and data products based on combined Medicare and commercial claims data for government, providers, payors and other authorized users. FAIR Health's systems for processing and storing protected health information have earned HITRUST CSF certification and achieved AICPA SOC 2 compliance by meeting the rigorous data security requirements of these standards. As a testament to the reliability and objectivity of FAIR Health data, the data have been incorporated in statutes and regulations around the country and designated as the official, neutral data source for a variety of state health programs, including workers' compensation and personal injury protection (PIP) programs. FAIR Health data serve as an official reference point in support of certain state balance billing laws that protect consumers against bills for surprise out-of-network and emergency services. FAIR Health also uses its database to power a free consumer website available in English and Spanish and an English/Spanish mobile app, which enable consumers to estimate and plan for their healthcare expenditures and offer a rich educational platform on health insurance. The website has been honored by the White House Summit on Smart Disclosure, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), URAC, the eHealthcare Leadership Awards, appPicker, Employee Benefit News and Kiplinger's Personal Finance. FAIR Health also is named a top resource for patients in Dr. Marty Makary's book The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care—and How to Fix It and Elisabeth Rosenthal's book An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back. For more information on FAIR Health, visit fairhealth.org.
1 A claim line is an individual service or procedure listed on an insurance claim.
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SOURCE FAIR Health