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Highmark policy holders adapting to virtual care

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Use of telehealth remains high two years into the COVID pandemic.

Before the pandemic, many people were hesitant to make use of the virtual visits that telehealth provides.

But Highmark says when it came to physical medicine, it saw its health insurance policy holders take advantage of those services over three million times in 2021.

“Those three million numbers added up to about a 3,600% increase (from 2019) in the utilization of telehealth in the physical medicine side of stuff," said Highmark vice president and executive medical director Dr. Timothy Law. "On the behavioral health side, there were even more phenomenal numbers, which was over an 8,000% increase in utilization of telehealth and virtual health services for our members.” 

Law says in Delaware alone there were more than 302-thousand telehealth claims processed in 2021.

He notes some of the trends they are seeing in use of virtual visits, “Women used it two to one compared to men. People over 65 were in the 13% range. And the types of services they were getting were anything from - for instance in our Medicare population - they were able to do their annual wellness visits. For the younger populations, things like sinus infections, rashes, colds and strep throat.”

Law says telehealth use for behavioral health visits also remains high, especially in treatment for depression and anxiety.

He says Highmark data shows more than 1.3-million behavioral health claims were processed in 2021, representing 42-percent of all telehealth claims.

Law points out that virtual care greatly reduces barriers to care such as traveling and scheduling difficulties - and is easily accessed to treat depression and anxiety and every day medical problems like flu and sinus infections.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.