Telehealth Sees A Slight Decrease In Volume But Increase In Mental Health Diagnoses

08 Dec, 2020 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – While Telehealth may have received a boost from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services via its recent final ruling that expanded the list of approved telehealth services, a new analysis of claims data from FAIR Health show a slight decrease in services earlier this fall.

Last week, health analytics company FAIR Health reported that although the number of telehealth services had increased by 2,980 percent from September 2019 until September of this year, the number of service lines has dropped by 16.5 percent the last 2 months of the time period.

In September 2019, telehealth services accounted for .16 percent of all claim lines. In August of this year, telehealth services accounted for 6.07 percent of healthcare claim lines, however the following 30 days, claim line totals dropped to 5.07 percent. When broken out by region, the trend held steady in most parts of the country.

Since the start of the pandemic, mental health conditions have been the top diagnosis category billed by providers in every region for telehealth services. While the number of claim lines may have fallen slightly from August to September this year, the number of claims billed for mental health conditions increased. In August, claims billed with a mental health diagnosis accounted for 48.93 percent of all telehealth claims. By September, the number of telehealth claims billed with a mental health diagnosis code increased to 51.83 percent.

In the northeast region, mental health was the top diagnosis category for both 2019 and 2020, however in 2020 the region experienced an increase in the number of mental health claims. In 2019 mental health diagnoses accounted for 40.26 percent of telehealth claims and in September 2020, that percentage jumped to 58.81 percent. Additionally, in the northeast substance abuse rose from the fifth diagnosis billed to fourth, which falls in line with the June CDC Morbidity and Mortality report. In the CDC analysis, 40 percent of respondents stated they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse, and 10 percent of respondents stated they had seriously considered suicide.

According to the FAIR Health data, the Midwest saw an even larger increase in mental health claims, going from 34.68 in September 2019, to 61.16 percent in September 2020. While the top diagnosis billed for telehealth claims in the southeast region in September 2019 was acute respiratory diseases and infections at 31.22 percent, in September 2020 mental health diagnoses accounted for 42.01 percent of claims. Interestingly enough, the western region experienced the opposite results. In September 2019, mental health diagnosis was the top category in western states at 69.48 percent, but by September 2020 mental health claims dropped to 46.79 percent.

In August, the number one procedure code billed on telehealth claims was established patient evaluation and management code 99213. Psychotherapy codes 90834  and 90837 (both 45 minutes of therapy) came in second as the top billed procedure codes. By September, however, procedure codes 90834 and 90837 ranked as the two top billed codes, and 99213 dropped to third place.

You can read the complete breakdown by region on the FAIR Health website.


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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