During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemental health and tele therapy became the second-most popular telehealth practice in August 2020 and held that position until December. The CPT Code 99213 was in the first place (CPT Code 99213 is used for “Office or outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient. This typically requires an appropriate history and/or examination and low-level decision-making).
However, the two codes swapped positions the following month due to a coding upgrade. As of January 2021, according to published reports, a 1-hour tele therapy session has become the most popular telehealth practice nationwide.
Telemental Health and Tele Therapy Studies
The top telehealth diagnosis in January 2021, nationally and every region, was mental health conditions. According to the Fair Health report, Except for the West Coast, the most common diagnosis in most parts of the United States was generalized anxiety disorder, which accounted for almost 30 percent of all mental health claims. Severe depressive disorder was the most often diagnosed disorder in the West.
Fair Health, a New York city-based nonprofit corporation specializing in health insurance data collection, has been monitoring developments relating to telehealth on a month-to-month basis since January 2020 through the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. They developed the tracker using their private health care claims to study the dramatic changes in telehealth that many experts predicted would occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the president of Fair Health, they have the nation’s largest collection of this type of data, including over 33 billion claims records. Fair Health tracked the rapid increase in the use of telehealth sparked due to the pandemic by comparing each month in 2020 to the corresponding month in 2019, as patients and providers turned to telehealth for treatments to minimize the exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Each infographic on the tracker shows month-to-month changes in the volume of telehealth claim lines, top five telehealth procedure codes, top five telehealth diagnoses (or diagnostic categories), and top five granular diagnoses within the most common diagnostic category. FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd stated: “As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, FAIR Health begins the second year of tracking the evolution of telehealth in that context. The Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker is one of the many ways we pursue our mission of bringing transparency to healthcare information.”
Vizient is a health care performance improvement company based in Texas and provides expertise, analytics, and advisory services to improve patient outcomes. The data, derived from the Clinical Practice Solutions Center, developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Vizient, shows that telemental health and neurology virtual visits remained the highest telehealth services in demand throughout the year. Read the full report here.
Amwell, a telemedicine company that connects patients with doctors over secure video, found in one of its surveys that telehealth usage is up considerably, with 22% of consumers and 80% of physicians having a virtual visit in 2020, up from 8% and 22%, respectively, in 2019. In the same survey, data shows that more than half of the consumers are willing to use telehealth options more often following COVID-19 than they did before the pandemic. Telemental health was mostly considered a temporary or optional service for providers, but it is now expected to become a standard feature for many providers after the pandemic.
Many people are interested in whether telehealth will continue to expand even after the COVID pandemic, including politicians, payers, providers, and patients. To address this need, Telehealth.org will be offering a free discussion for interested parties through the Southern Arizona Psychological Association (SAPA) on April 30, 2021, from 4-5 PM Pacific time. Titled “The Future of Telehealth”, the discussion is available through the SAPA.
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