Report: Telehealth use beginning to taper
A new report from analytics firm Trilliant Health suggested that telehealth use is starting to taper in the United States “post-peak pandemic,” with use spiking in April 2020 and petering off from there.
The report, based on Trilliant Health’s national all-payer claims database, found that about 38 million Americans, excluding traditional Medicare users, generated approximately 96 million video visits during COVID-19.
“As healthcare executives begin developing strategies to guide their organizations in a health economy recovering from the global COVID-19 pandemic, insight into the demand, supply and yield equation will help us distinguish between commonly held anecdotes and the data-informed truths,” wrote Trilliant researchers.
WHY IT MATTERS
Telehealth has generated significant interest during COVID-19, but the picture of who relied on it most heavily is still emerging.
According to Trilliant’s analysis, telehealth is most consistently used by women ages 30-39, with women ages 20-29 the fastest growing utilizers.
And at the peak of the pandemic, virtual care growth varied regionally.
California experienced an 1,860% percent growth in telehealth utilization, followed by Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii and Vermont.
But even states with the least growth still more than doubled their use, with North Dakota bringing up the rear at 218%. Wyoming, Mississippi, Iowa and Arizona were also on the low end of the range.
And in the “post-peak” months of January through March 2021, telehealth use was declining in most states – especially South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi and California.
Not every state is decreasing, though. New Hampshire experienced no decline, and Oregonians only slightly lessened their use. And in New Mexico and Washington, utilization rates have actually increased.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, behavioral health was a key driver of demand, comprising more than a third of visits. Anxiety and depression are the most frequent diagnoses among the highest users of telehealth.
“Over the past 24 months, telehealth has consistently been utilized for behavioral health diagnoses more than medical diagnoses, particularly by commercially insured patients,” wrote researchers.
THE LARGER TREND
Trilliant Health argues that telehealth services are increasingly being commoditized as a “membership” good. But major retailers appear to be betting that consumers will be motivated to pursue that good.
Amazon Care, for example, has been making waves in the industry as it moves to provide employees of other companies with access to its app-based services in all 50 states.
And Walmart, which recently acquired MeMD, says virtual care can be part of an “omni-channel” solution to healthcare needs.
“As we think about telehealth, it’s about recognizing – give people options, give people multiple pathways to engage care the way they want, and guess what they’ll do?” said Marcus Osborne, senior VP of Walmart Health during the American Telemedicine Association conference and expo earlier this month. “They’ll get care.”
ON THE RECORD
“COVID-19’s acceleration of telehealth adoption is beginning to taper and suggests long-term use is limited to a discrete user profile,” wrote Trilliant researchers.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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