Data & Analysis

Telehealth Adoption Steadying Toward a New Normal Rate

4 minutes

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term role of telehealth as a permanent fixture of care delivery models is starting to crystalize. While we have seen fluctuations in the overall adoption of telehealth (primarily video visits*), which has largely tracked with the initial surge and subsequent spikes in COVID-19 cases, providers are beginning to realize that telehealth is not a mere backup plan to revert to only during the pandemic. Sustained adoption well above pre-pandemic levels are likely to persist — and even grow — as providers increasingly leverage telehealth capabilities as a means not only to operationally survive but to competitively thrive.

This tool uses several million claims records from Jan. 1, 2020, through May 7, 2021, to track telehealth adoption trends since the beginning of the pandemic to identify where we see the greatest impact — and infer where it is likely to remain in the future. Distinctive pockets of sustained adoption are emerging, like behavioral health, which have become truly transformed care models over the last year and a half. Primary care and some medical specialties are also expanding their experimentation with integrating telehealth into their care delivery platforms in a more deliberate way. 

We will be refreshing this dataset as notable trends emerge and warrant corresponding commentary and insight. For instance, the downward trends in telehealth adoption during the spring months of 2021 are expected to reverse somewhat during the summer months as we've seen the spread of the Delta variant subsume gains made as vaccinations became more common. The springtime downward trend is also likely reflective of pent-up demand for in-person visits postponed during 2020.

Looking ahead to the latter half of 2021, telehealth adoption likely will see short-term spikes and falls based on factors like new COVID variants (including Delta and other common strains) and regulatory changes, such as payment waiver expiration. Longer term, telehealth adoption growth will be driven by a combination of providing a compelling user experience for patients and providers alike, as well as its integration into the care continuum such that handoffs between virtual and in-person teams is seamless, standardized, and streamlined to maximize efficiency and outcomes that will attract and retain patient relationships for the foreseeable future.

*Data reported includes the following types of telehealth services:

New/Established Virtual 77.93%
Audio Only 18.14%
Virtual Check-in 1.71%
Online Digital E/M 1.69%
Telephone 0.49%
Non-Physician Online A/M 0.04%
Other/Invalid 0.00%

© 2022 The Chartis Group, LLC. All rights reserved. This content draws on the research and experience of Chartis consultants and other sources. It is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

Analytics Methodology

Underlying data provided by Kythera Labs are sourced from clearinghouse claims vendors which comprise a national representation of submitted professional medical claims. These claims include self-insured and fully insured health plans across most major commercial payors and Medicare Advantage. The level of claims coverage varies by geography. Geographic and specialty utilization patterns may change over time based upon timing and mix of claims reporting by clearinghouse. Data is refreshed on a weekly basis, which includes data for the subsequent week, in addition to newly submitted claims from prior weeks.

Effective July 2020: Modified methodology has been implemented for geographic analysis, now defined based upon patient location.

Data excludes providers billing from US territories: Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Telehealth adoption rates for multi-state CBSAs will aggregate into the respective telehealth adoption rate calculation, identified and assigned by the respective provider state. Physician specialties are determined based upon the specialty assigned to the rendering provider NPI. Certain physician specialties are combined or excluded to form the 20 specialties reported in the analysis. APP-defined practitioners have been excluded from this analysis. Percentage telehealth rate is calculated as the ratio of unique telehealth visits as a proportion of total physician visits.

View Previous Data & Insights

Chartis and Kythera Labs are continuing to monitor telehealth adoption and utilization across the US and post our weekly Telehealth Adoption Tracker to enable drill-down analysis of specific markets. View previous telehealth adoption insights — including the 6 key areas of telehealth adoption trends over the first full year of the pandemic.

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