It's not surprising that a new report published by LexisNexis® Risk Solutions Health Care, the 2021 COVID-19 Mental Health Impact Report, verifies that mental health telehealth visits increased during the pandemic. What is surprising is the dramatic spike of 6,500% in one year.
Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was hugely underutilized for mental health services. The dramatic spike in mental health telehealth medical claims from January 2020 to February 2021 acknowledges the impact the pandemic has had on the need for mental health services. This is particularly relevant as May is Mental Health Month, which is dedicated to educating the public on how to support those struggling with mental health issues and increasing awareness on the state of behavioral healthcare services.
To understand the impact of COVID-19 on mental health services, the report tracks data from eight key metrics, including visits for anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. The report found that more patients overall are seeking treatment for mental and behavioral health services during the pandemic, while those who had already been using these services showed a slight increase in visits during the early months.
Specifically, the report's primary findings indicate:
- 6,500% increase in telehealth claims for behavioral health services
- 3,000% increase in telehealth visits for anxiety
- 2,500% increase in telehealth visits for depression
- 1,400% increase in substance abuse care in telehealth
The surge in telehealth claims for behavioral health services emphasizes how the use and adoption of telehealth accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Pre-COVID, telehealth claims data showed an average of 16,000 patients per month. That number spiked dramatically, however, from March 2020 through February 2021 to 1,020,000 per month.
The same increase, however, is not evident when looking at mental health across all settings of care (telehealth, physician office, hospital and post-acute care settings), which increased from an average of 1,669,000 patients per month pre-COVID to 1,706,000 in the 12 months starting March 2020.
The continuing need for mental health services, driven by the pandemic, has ensured the rapid adoption of telehealth services by providers and patients. This logically suggests that remote behavioral health visits will be an acceptable form of treatment. Leveraging data from more than 2.2 billion aggregated de-identified medical claims in LexisNexis MarketView™, enabled LexisNexis Risk Solutions to quantify that assumption for the industry. Especially during Mental Health Month, it is vital to be able to gauge the requirements for such services more precisely to determine the scale of continued need for telehealth services.
To learn more, read the 2021 COVID-19 Mental Health Impact Report.