National telehealth utilization increased 1.9% month-over-month among the privately insured population in November 2022, following a one-month period of decline, according to a new analysis from Fair Health’s monthly tracker.
The increase follows a bump in COVID-19 virtual diagnoses, which rose to the third most frequently diagnosed condition from its fifth place spot in October, after falling off the top five diagnoses completely in previous months.
COVID cases rose nationally in the U.S. beginning in November, following an uptick in coronavirus cases around the December holiday period, according to the weekly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID tracker.
In November, 5.3% of medical claim lines were billed as telehealth visits, compared to 5.2% in October, when national telehealth utilization declined by 3.7%. Fair Health analyzes privately insured medical claims, including Medicare Advantage visits, but excluding both Medicare fee-for-service and Medicaid.
Mental health conditions continued to dominate the top five telehealth diagnoses, compromising 64% of diagnoses. The next most prevalent diagnosis was acute respiratory disease and infections in 5.1% of visits.
Mental telehealth visits have dominated the top diagnosis spot since Fair Health began tracking medical claim data in January 2020, when mental health conditions comprised 30% of total virtual diagnoses.
The continued prevalence of mental telehealth visits comes as the end to the COVID-19 public health emergency in May looms. The PHE guaranteed provisions for virtual medical care, including a waiving of HIPAA privacy rules that allowed providers to transmit sensitive patient data and allowed clinicians to use online video platforms like Zoom and Google Meet.
In its December omnibus bill, Congress extended Medicare telehealth provisions for two years, including delays for mental telehealth required in-person screenings.