After having been absent for 2 months from the national top 5 telehealth diagnoses, COVID-19 returned to the list in November 2021, ranking in fifth place at 1.4% of telehealth claim lines,1 according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker (FIGURE 1). The data represent the privately insured population, including Medicare Advantage and excluding Medicare Fee-for-Service and Medicaid.
Figure 1. Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, October versus November 2021, United States
Credit: FAIR Health
In the Northeast, COVID-19 also returned to the top 5 telehealth diagnoses at fifth place in November; it had not been listed in that region since January 2021. In the Midwest, where it had not been listed since September, COVID-19 returned to the top 5 telehealth diagnoses at third place in November. November was the month when the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 was first detected in the United States.
Nationally, substance use disorders fell out of the top 5 telehealth diagnoses in November to make way for COVID-19. In the Northeast and Midwest, joint/soft tissue diseases and issues dropped out of the top 5. Encounter for examination dropped from third place to fifth place in the top 5 telehealth diagnoses in the South. There were no changes in the rankings of top 5 telehealth diagnoses in the West.
Increase in Telehealth Utilization
Telehealth utilization increased 7.3% nationally in November 2021, rising from 4.1% of all medical claim lines in October to 4.4% in November. This increase followed a decline of 6.8% in October. In November, telehealth utilization also increased in every census region (Midwest, Northeast, South and West), with the greatest increase (8.3%) in the Northeast (FIGURE 2).
Figure 2. Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, October versus November 2021, Northeast
Credit: FAIR Health
Changes in Procedure Code Rankings
In the rankings of the top 5 telehealth procedure codes nationally and in the Midwest, CPT® 99213, 20-29-minute established patient outpatient visit, and CPT 99214, 30-39-minute established patient outpatient visit, switched places in November 2021. Both nationally and in the Midwest, CPT 99214 had been in second place and CPT 99213 in third place in October; in November, CPT 99213 moved to second place and CPT 99214 to third place.
About the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker
Launched in May 2020 as a free service, the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker uses FAIR Health data to track how telehealth is evolving from month to month. An interactive map of the 4 US census regions allows the user to view an infographic on telehealth in a specific month in the nation as a whole or in individual regions. Each infographic shows month-to-month changes in volume of telehealth claim lines, top 5 telehealth procedure codes and top five telehealth diagnoses (or diagnostic categories), along with that month’s top 5 granular diagnoses within the most common diagnostic category.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and telehealth utilization continue to evolve, FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker serves as a window into that evolution. This is one of the many ways we pursue our healthcare transparency mission.
For the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, click here.