The Ask the Analyst series is a deep dive into the data by those most familiar with the CO APCD – the analysts themselves. We’ll hear about their experiences with recent analyses and answer any pressing questions that come up. Have a question for the CIVHC Analyst Team? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Analyst Name: Katie Oberg
Featured Project: Telehealth vs. In-Person Utilization
Our previous telehealth analysis shows an unsurprising, but still, dramatic increase in telehealth beginning in March of 2020. The goal of this analysis is to understand what that means for the overall healthcare landscape – was this increase in telehealth utilization enough to offset the decrease in in-person utilization?
What were your first steps when beginning this analysis?
Our original telehealth analysis applied a broad definition of telehealth and also included telehealth-only procedures. The first step in this follow-up analysis was to pull out the procedure codes that could be performed either in-person or via telehealth so we were comparing services that were telehealth eligible. We also pulled inspiration from other existing reports that reported measures of telehealth adoption and trends of both in-person and telehealth utilization.
Were there specific considerations you needed to consider based on the data?
One important consideration is potential changes to telehealth billing practices, especially for the commercially insured population. This is important context for understanding the drivers of telehealth utilization trends.
What challenges did you encounter while performing the analysis? How did you overcome them?
Our first draft of this report included all telehealth-eligible services. This version included a lot of noise and was difficult to interpret, which made it challenging to glean meaningful insights. Our solution was to limit the report to high-volume services, mainly primary care and behavioral health.
Without delving into results, did anything surprise you about this analysis or the process of executing it?
One of the most surprising findings was the sustained telehealth use for behavioral health services throughout 2020. In December of 2020, 65% of psychiatry services were delivered via telehealth as compared to only 1.5% in 2019.
What did you learn while performing this analysis?
COVID-19 and the adoption of telehealth had variable effects on different sectors of the health care system. Primary care providers saw a 40% decrease in overall services provided from January 2020 to April 2020 despite a 7,800% increase in telehealth claims. In contrast, behavioral health providers had essentially no decrease in overall services from January to April, largely due to 2,300% increase in telehealth claims with 75% of services in April delivered via telehealth.