FAIR Health, a non-profit organization that collects data on healthcare costs and coverage, recently published a white paper examining how telehealth is impacting the healthcare landscape.
This report drew upon a repository of over 29 billion private healthcare claim records, the largest in the nation, and found that telehealth grew 53% from 2016-2017, and another 26% from 2017-2018. Overall, from 2014-2018, claim lines related to any type of telehealth have increased 624%. Furthermore, telehealth grew 1,289% in urban areas from 2012-2017, compared to rural areas, which experienced 482% growth in the same time period.
However, different types of telehealth saw different levels of growth when taking into account geography, age, gender, and diagnoses.
The study divides telehealth into four types, measuring their utilization from 2014-2018:
- Provider-to-patient-non-hospital-based-telehealth, where the provider and patient communicate via telehealth without relation to a hospital. This form of telehealth grew 14-fold, and more in urban areas than rural areas. By 2018, this branch made up 84% of all telehealth services
- Provider-to-patient-discharge telehealth, where the telehealth visit is a follow-up after the patient is discharged from a hospital. This form of telehealth more than doubled, with 82% of these claims for individuals aged 51 and older
- Provider-to-provider, which involves consultation between healthcare professionals. This form of telehealth more than doubled, but by 2018 only made up 3% of telehealth services
- Physician-to-patient-ED/inpatient telehealth, where the patient is in the hospital, either in the emergency department or as an inpatient, communicating via telehealth with a physician. This form of telehealth grew four-fold, but consistently made up less than 1% of telehealth services
Other final observations of the study were:
- Telehealth services were well distributed by age
- 65% of all telehealth claim lines from 2014-2018 were associated with females, although when broken down to discharge-related telehealth, women made up 53% of those telehealth claims
- Acute upper respiratory infections were the number one reason individuals sought telehealth treatment in 2018, making up just over 15% of telehealth claim lines