- Telehealth use increased for the third straight month in January, when the highly infectious omicron variant was raging. The number of claims that were for telehealth visits increased more than 10% between December and January, according to Fair Health's monthly tracker out Wednesday.
- Among the top five telehealth diagnoses that month, COVID-19 tied for second with acute respiratory diseases and infections. Mental health conditions were by far the most common diagnosis, coming in at nearly 60% of all claims.
- The top two specialties represented were social worker and primary care physician, followed by psychiatrist, psychologist and primary care nonphysician.
After dipping in the fall of last year, telehealth use edged up again as omicron spread across the country. While omicron has waned, a subvariant known as BA.2 represents another threat that could continue to push people toward virtual visits.
The share of claims that were for COVID-19 diagnoses fell from December to January in all regions except for the West, where it was stable month over month.
Mental health conditions have been a major force driving telehealth use as the pandemic has prompted feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety for many. Startups have aimed to capture this market, as those offering mental health services pulled in $5.1 billion in investments last year, doubling the previous year's haul.
More established players are also ramping up their offerings. In its first-quarter earnings call, Teladoc said mental health visits more than doubled in its direct-to-consumer BetterHealth service and in business-to-business channels last year.
Telehealth use rose the most from December of last year to January of this year in the West and the least in the South. Nationally, telehealth services made up a little more than 10% of all claims in January. In October, before omicron became the dominant strain in the U.S., virtual visits were about 4% of all claims.