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Original Research

Telemental Health Utilization in Commercial Health Insurance Plans in the United States From 2010 Through 2019

Aziza Arifkhanova, PhD; Andrew Elhabr, PhD; Christian Murray, MS; Jaya Khushalani, PhD; Antonio Neri, MD; Jennifer Kaminski, PhD; Richard W. Puddy, PhD; and Turgay Ayer, PhD

Published: November 20, 2023


Objective: We sought to characterize patterns of utilization of telemental health among commercially insured individuals over the decade preceding COVID-19.

Methods: We developed telemental health service groups from the US PharMetrics Plus database, using diagnostic codes to identify those diagnosed with mental health conditions and procedure codes to capture mental health visits delivered via telehealth sessions. We analyzed 2 indicators of utilization between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2019: (1) the percentage of patients with mental health needs who used telemental health services and (2) the percentage of all mental health services provided via telehealth. We stratified our analyses by year, patient gender, patient age, and geographic region.

Results: The proportion of mental health visits delivered via telemental health increased from 0.002% to 0.162% between 2010 and 2019. A larger proportion of males received telemental health services as compared to females; however, the proportion of mental health visits delivered via telehealth was higher for females than for males. Patients aged 18 to 34 years and those in the western US had the highest utilization compared to other age groups and geographic regions.

Conclusions: Telemental health utilization comprised a small fraction of overall mental health services and beneficiaries in the IQVIA PharMetrics Plus claims data, but increased over time, with differences documented in utilization based on patient gender, patient age, geographic region, and type of telemental health claim. Evidence from this study may serve as a pre-pandemic baseline for comparison against future evaluations of telehealth expansion policies.

J Clin Psychiatry 2024;85(1):23m14931

Author affiliations are listed at the end of this article.

Volume: 85

Quick Links: Uncategorized

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