Despite Tele-Behavioral Health Adoption, Mental Health ED Visits Surpass Pre-Pandemic Volumes

Despite the uptick in tele-behavioral health adoption during the pandemic, in 2021 emergency departments continued to see a rise in volume for mental health conditions.

“Based upon fundamental economic principles, telehealth is only a viable ‘substitute good’ for behavioral health,” Chief Research and Market Strategy Officer Sanjula Jain wrote in a new report from Trilliant Health. 

Virtual behavioral health visits skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Trilliant Health report, “visit volumes in both April 2020 and April 2021 [were] more than 4,000% higher than in April 2019.” However, this didn’t translate into long-term impacts on emergency department volumes. 


Early on in the pandemic, emergency department volumes for mental health conditions dropped. For example, in April 2020 the volume of patients seeking anxiety care dropped by 27.7% and the volume of schizophrenia, bipolar and major depressive disorder care decreased by 25% from 2019, according to Trilliant Health data. 

However, by April 2021 behavioral health emergency departments were higher than April 2019. For example, anxiety events were up by 8.9% and schizophrenia, bipolar & major depressive disorder volumes were up by 35%.

What this means for investors

Unprecedented amounts of funding poured into the digital mental health space in 2021. In fact, Trilliant Health said that digital behavioral health platforms raised $5.5 billion over 324 deals in 2021. That’s a 1,000% increase in venture funding from 2015.


Notable digital behavioral health fundings from 2021 include Lyra Health’s $200 million funding round and Spring Health’s $190 million Series C round.

“Every stakeholder should consider the limitations of emerging digital health platforms for treating more severe and complex conditions that usually require a more high-touch approach than a virtual visit,” Jain wrote in the report.

Digital mental health continues to be a popular sector with investors moving into 2022. Rock Health reported digital mental health care companies raked in $1 billion in Q1 of 2022. Lyra Health once again topped the list with $235 million in Series F funding in Q1 of 2022.

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