During the COVID-19 pandemic, increases in telehealth use were apparent, largely due to restrictions on in-person care. Between March 2019 and March 2020, there was a 4,347 percent increase in national telehealth claim lines, previous tracker data shows.
Even a few years into the pandemic, telehealth use saw some increases as COVID-19 variants emerged. In November 2021, for instance, the FAIR Health Monthly Telehealth Regional tracker indicated that telehealth use jumped 7.3 percent, and COVID-19 regained a spot on the list of the top five telehealth diagnoses nationally.
Once again, in January, telehealth use increased by 7.3 percent nationally. It also rose by 9.5 percent in the Midwest, 9.5 percent in the West, 6.7 percent in the South, and 3.2 percent in the Northeast. In December 2022, telehealth use also increased nationally and in three of four US Census regions.
While the tracker continues to gather data surrounding telehealth use in 2023, it has added some new features. Like in previous years, analyses of costs, diagnoses, and medical claim lines remain. However, data surrounding audio-only telehealth use, urban and rural activity, and the top five diagnoses that occur through asynchronous telehealth are being accounted for this year.
Between December 2022 and January 2023, the use of audio-only telehealth decreased on all lists, both nationally and in all regions. The South, however, experienced the most noticeable decline, where this type of telehealth delivery dropped 16.6 percent in rural areas from 12.2 percent of telehealth claim lines in December to 10.6 percent in January. Audio-only telehealth use in the South declined by 12.8 percent in urban areas, from 12.2 percent of telehealth claim lines to 10.6 percent between December and January.
Although audio-only telehealth was generally more popular in rural areas, the opposite trend occurred in the South, according to the report. Additionally, in January in the West, rural and urban residents used audio-only telehealth at similar rates.
Regarding overall top telehealth diagnoses in January, developmental disorders ranked fourth place nationally, and joint and soft tissue diseases ranked fifth. COVID-19 did not appear on the lists in the Midwest and the West. However, it appeared in fourth place in the South and third in the Northeast and at the national level.
Asynchronous telehealth refers to telehealth where relevant clinical data is stored and forwarded. In the South and at the national level in January, acute respiratory diseases and infections were the No. 1 diagnosis made through asynchronous telehealth.
But in the Northeast and Midwest, mental health conditions held the No. 1 spot. Hypertension ranked second on all top telehealth diagnoses lists except for the South, where it ranked fourth.
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