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Telehealth Services Outpace Other Venues of Care

Between 2016 and 2017, the national utilization of telehealth as a service grew 53%, according to data from a recent white paper outlining service trends and medical pricing published by FAIR Health.

The data shows that telehealth outpaced retail clinics, urgent care centers, and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in terms of growth of use. “By comparison, utilization of urgent care centers increased 14%, retail clinics 7%, and ASCs 6%, while that of emergency rooms, decreased 2%,” stated the report.

FAIR Health, publishers of the the white paper that combines two reports, is a national, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing transparency to health care costs and health insurance information—with databases from over 28 billion privately billed health care claim records.

National growth of claim lines for telehealth, according to the reports data, was 1202% in 2012-2017 compared to 643% in 2011-2016. The report also compared rural and urban areas for health care services. Rural areas saw 482% increase in telehealth between 2012 and 2017, urban areas saw a 1289% increase.

“In the single year from 2016 to 2017, rural growth was 29% and urban growth 55%, with overall national growth 53%. That national growth rate was higher than that of any other place of service studied for that variable in this report,” as stated the white paper.

Robin Gelburd, JD, the president of FAIR Health,  said, “The first edition of FH Healthcare Indicators and the FH Medical Price Index drew a welcome public response, as stakeholders expressed appreciation for being offered this ‘macro’ view into the nation’s health care system.”

These reports also break down telehealth usage by gender, age, and geography. The white paper data shows that in 2017, telehealth claim lines were submitted for more females than males in every age group, except age 0 to 10 years. This is also true for retail clinics and urgent care centers. The top 5 states with the highest percentage of telehealth claims compared to total claims in 2017 are Oklahoma, Wyoming, Ohio, Hawaii, and West Virginia.

“We hope that this new edition continues to inform decision making throughout the health care sector by payers, providers, government officials, policymakers, academic researchers, and others,” said Ms Gelburd. —Edan Stanley

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