Telehealth utilization in the United States experienced a slight increase of 1.8% in March, comprising 5.6% of medical claim lines, according to the FAIR Health Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. The top telehealth diagnoses remained consistent in most regions, while mental health conditions constituted the majority of claim lines nationally. Audio-only telehealth usage was higher in rural areas, and previous reports showed more significant spikes in telehealth utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Telehealth utilization experienced a slight uptick of 1.8 percent at the national level in March, constituting 5.6 percent of medical claim lines. This information comes from the FAIR Health Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, which monitors changes in telehealth usage by analyzing claim lines, procedure codes, and diagnostic categories. The tracker focuses on a privately insured population, including Medicare Advantage while excluding Medicare Fee-for-Service and Medicaid beneficiaries.
Despite the reduced severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth continues to be widely adopted. The March edition of the FAIR Health Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker attested to this trend.
Nationally, telehealth usage grew by 1.8 percent in March, with the Midwest experiencing a 2.4 percent increase and the West observing a 2.6 percent rise. However, telehealth usage remained constant in the Northeast and the South.
Overall, telehealth accounted for 5.6 percent of claim lines at the national level, slightly higher than the 5.5 percent reported in February.
The top five telehealth diagnoses saw slight variations in March. In the South, urinary tract infections emerged as the fifth most common diagnosis, while hypertension shifted from fifth to third place. Additionally, the encounter for examination dropped off the list in the South after holding the third position in February.
Conversely, the top five telehealth diagnoses remained unchanged at the national level, in the Midwest, the Northeast, and the West compared to the previous month.
Regarding telehealth claim lines, mental health conditions constituted 67.4 percent in March, a slight increase from 66.7 percent in February. Acute respiratory diseases and infections ranked second nationwide, experiencing a decline from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent of telehealth claim lines between February and March.
Changes were also observed in asynchronous telehealth activity. Hypertension maintained its second-place position in the list of top five diagnoses for national and Western telehealth visits. It ranked fourth in the South and first in the Midwest, as it did in the previous month.
In the Northeast, however, hypertension shifted from first to second place between February and March, trading places with mental health conditions.
In March, as in the previous month, audio-only telehealth usage remained higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. Nevertheless, the South saw audio-only telehealth representing 10.5 percent of claim lines in urban regions, surpassing the 5.5 percent seen in rural areas.
While telehealth utilization saw a marginal increase in March, previous reports from FAIR Health have indicated larger surges in the past.
In December 2021, national telehealth usage rose by 11.4 percent, accounting for 4.9 percent of all medical claim lines. This substantial increase was closely tied to the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The tracker’s diagnostic data highlighted COVID-19’s ascent in the list of the top five most commonly diagnosed conditions via telehealth.