Telehealth claims exploded in 2020 for Highmark

Ioannis Pashakis//February 16, 2021

Telehealth claims exploded in 2020 for Highmark

Ioannis Pashakis//February 16, 2021

Highmark members increased their use of telehealth services by 3,400% last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unable to access their local providers because of quarantine, more patients than ever had access to virtual care in 2020.

Pittsburgh-based Highmark has offered telehealth services to its members for many years, but for a majority of its members, 2020 was their first year that they needed it, said Dr. David Webster, vice president and executive medical director of clinical services at Highmark.

“Overall, by the end of 2020 we saw an increase in utilization of telehealth services by more than 3,400 percent over 2019 and more than 3.4 million telehealth services were accessed by our members,” said Webster.

In 2020, Highmark paid local doctors nearly $300 million for telehealth services, an increase of more than 8,000% over 2019, according to Webster.

Even after stay-at-home orders were lifted across the state, Highmark continued to see patients rely on telehealth to avoid the virus as well as long waiting times for appointments.

Throughout the year, the insurer saw 1.5 million claims for behavioral health services and 1.1 million claims for primary care services. 3.3 million of Highmark’s claims were for local doctors while 79,000 came from telehealth vendors such as Brightheart, American Well and Doctor on Demand.

“Highmark’s data also showed that women were more likely to utilize telehealth, and that members aged 30-39 were the most likely to access telehealth services, with 350 per 1,000 members in this age group utilizing telehealth services,” he said. “We also saw the largest number of telehealth claims among members aged 19 or younger.”