Report Shows Use of Telehealth Growing Faster Than Use of Other Alternative Care Sites
April 04, 2019
Independent non-profit FAIR Health’s second annual report shows the nation’s use of telehealth (also called telemedicine) grew 53 percent from 2016 to 2017, outpacing increases in utilization at the other alternative care sites studied.
By comparison, national use of urgent care centers grew 14 percent, followed by retail clinics with 7 percent growth, and ambulatory surgery centers with 6 percent. Use of Emergency Departments (EDs) decreased 2 percent, but EDs continued to have the largest share of all medical claims among the care sites studied.
The report’s conclusions are based on analysis of 28 billion commercial insurance claims, the largest repository in the country.
According to the report, private insurance claims for telehealth services increased more than 1200 percent from 2012 to 2017. The report also analyzes the “who, where, and why” of telehealth usage during 2016 and 2017:
- Consumers aged 31–60 accounted for the biggest share (44%) of claims, but use by children and young adults grew.
- Usage in both rural and urban areas increased, with stronger (55%) growth in urban settings as opposed to slower (29%) growth in rural settings.
- Top diagnostic categories were injury, acute respiratory infections, and digestive system issues.
- Mental health reasons were the number one diagnostic category during 2016, but dropped to number five during 2017.
The report notes that telehealth usage has increased as more states put in place laws to support the adoption of this method of care delivery. Analysis of which states used telehealth the most during 2017 ranks Oklahoma, Wyoming, Ohio, Hawaii, and West Virginia at the top, based on telehealth claims as a percentage of all claims in that state. Pennsylvania fell toward the lower end of the spectrum.
HAP and the Pennsylvania hospital community continue to urge Pennsylvania to enact legislation that defines telemedicine, puts in place key consumer protections to ensure that care is delivered by licensed clinicians, and expands insurance coverage for telemedicine services.
For more information, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy, or Tim Ohrum, HAP's vice president, grassroots advocacy.