Nationwide telehealth utilization picked up again in May after three straight months of declines. Mental health conditions and substance use disorder (SUD) represented a significant portion of the telehealth uptick.
Telehealth was used more for mental health conditions than any other medical diagnosis in May, according to the nonprofit health data organization FAIR Health, which reported the utilization trends. That held true in all four U.S. Census regions, where mental health conditions for every region represented at least 50% of all telehealth claims. The Midwest region had the highest percentage of telehealth claim lines at 71.3%.
For the first time, SUD joined the list of top five diagnoses nationwide for which telehealth was used.
For each region, general anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) were the top two telehealth mental health diagnoses. And in every region, GAD and MDD combined represented at least 50% of all telehealth claim lines for mental health.
GAD affects 6.8 million Americans, with more than 16.1 million Americans suffering from MDD, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Typically, large numbers of people with GAD and MDD go without treatment due to factors such as stigma and a shortage of behavioral health clinicians; however, telehealth continues to present opportunities to change that and improve treatment access.
Currently, a number of legislative proposals have been introduced to make permanent some of the telehealth flexibilities that were enacted during the pandemic. Additionally, a majority of Americans have stated a preference for continuing to receive telehealth post-pandemic, according to data from the market research company Propeller Insights, on behalf of healthcare technology and consulting company DrFirst.
The FAIR Health study compiled telehealth information from privately insured individuals in all four U.S. Census regions. That includes recipients of Medicare Advantage, but excluding Medicare fee-for-service and Medicaid beneficiaries.