Despite big decline, telehealth use still massively higher than pre-pandemic
From 2020 to 2021, telehealth utilization declined 76% nationally while retail clinic utilization increased 51%, according to a white paper from FAIR Health. The retail clinic utilization increase was bigger than urgent care centers, telehealth, ambulatory surgery centers, and emergency departments.
Despite its decline from 2020 to 2021, the overall telehealth utilization rate is up 5,017% from 2016 to 2021, mainly due to high usage during the pandemic. It also had the highest percentage of medical claim lines in 2021, with 3.7% of all medical claim lines nationally. The comparable percentages for other service locations were 1.8% for emergency departments, 1.5% for urgent cares, 0.6% for ambulatory surgery centers, and 0.1% for retail clinics. The remainder were in traditional locations, such as a physician’s office. Utilization rates for urgent care centers were up 14% in the same time frame, while ambulatory surgery centers declined 7% and Eds declined 15%.
In 2021, more claim lines were submitted for females than males in most age groups in these alternative places of service, but in retail clinics, urgent cares, and Eds, the gap between male and females continued to narrow in some age groups. For example, the female share in the 19-30 age range in retail clinics had been close to 70% in 2019, it was 64% in 2020 and 60 to 63% in 2021.
The five states in which retail clinic claim lines constituted the greatest percentage of medical claim lines were (from greatest to least) Rhode Island, Maine, Arkansas, Connecticut and Georgia. Minnesota fell off the list after having ranked first in 2018, third in 2019 and fifth in 2020.
Across offices, urgent care centers and retail clinics in 2021, the highest median charge amount for CPT 99203 (new patient outpatient visit, total time 30-44 minutes) was in urgent care centers at $240, while the median charge for offices was $226; in 2020, offices had had the highest median charge for that code.
For the new white paper, FH® Healthcare Indicators and FH® Medical Price Index 2023: An Annual View of Place of Service Trends and Medical Pricing, click here.