Analysis of Telehealth Usage and Trends in the Military Health System, 2006-2018

Telemed J E Health. 2021 Mar 17. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2020.0474. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Background: Telehealth in the Military Health System (MHS) has long been an important tool for delivering care in deployed settings. However, the scope of nondeployed telehealth usage in the MHS has not previously been published, making full evaluation difficult. This study aims at addressing this gap by assessing trends over time, demographics, provider types, and diagnoses most associated with telehealth usage in the MHS. Methods: Secondary analysis was conducted on health care claims from the MHS Data Repository for all telehealth services provided from fiscal years 2006 to 2018. Telehealth services were identified by using Common Procedural Terminology (CPT) code modifiers GT, GQ, and 95. Patient demographics, provider type, and major diagnostic category were assessed for all telehealth services in both direct (military provided) and purchased (private sector) care. Results: Usage of telehealth services in the MHS rose ∼19-fold, from 2,549 to 48,667 occurrences, from 2006 to 2018. Physicians provided ∼60% of telehealth services overall, and the greatest usage was for mental health diagnoses. Purchased care (PC) showed differences from direct care (DC), including a greater level of expansion, greater inclusion of children and adolescents, and lower usage of telehealth for non-mental health services. Conclusions: Telehealth usage in the MHS has increased substantially from a total 2,549 occurrences in 2006 to 48,667 occurrences in 2018, demonstrating greater acceptance and usage by both DC and PC providers. Future directions include assessing provider types, diagnosis codes, and patient demographics associated with telehealth use, especially in the emerging COVID19 clinical practice environment.

PMID:33733870 | DOI:10.1089/tmj.2020.0474