July 22 (UPI) -- The number of patients using computers to receive healthcare from doctors has skyrocketed in the last few years, new research shows.
In only four years, insurance claims for non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth have shot up by nearly 1,400 percent, according to a white paper published this month by FAIR Health.
For telehealth visits, patients consult with doctors via video chat allowing for last minute concerns without going to the hospital, follow-up visits, and general consultation between health care professionals.
"FAIR Health has released an excellent study of an emerging type of care and its impact on the healthcare landscape," Martin A. Makary, a researcher at Johns Hopkins, said in a news release. "The analysis reveals aspects of telehealth that have not previously been studied in this level of detail."
For the study, the researched pulled numbers from FAIR Health's database for more than 29 billion private healthcare claims between 2014 and 2018. They found all telehealth claim lines -- which also include provider-to-patient-discharge, physician-to-patient-emergency department /inpatient and provider-to-provider -- increased by 624 percent.
In 2018, about 84 percent of all telehealth claim lines were non-hospital-based provider-to-patient telehealth claim. That's compared to 52 percent in 2014.
They found females accounted for 65 percent of all telehealth claims and 53 telehealth claims submitted following hospital discharges.
People between ages 31 and 40 made up 21 percent of all telehealth claims lines, while patients older than age 51 accounted for 82 percent of claim lines.
Patients most commonly use non-hospital-based telehealth to treat acute upper respiratory infections, mood disorders and anxiety.
Past research has shown about 90 percent of patients would prefer telehealth visits to traveling to see a doctor in-person.
The growing popularity of telehealth stems from a shortage of doctors and an increase in patients who have health insurance. After the Affordable Care Act launched in 2013, about 20 million insured patients entered the marketplace by 2017. That influx has put a higher demand on physicians to treat a growing number of people.
Telehealth visits have been recommended by experts as a way to alleviate that strain.
"As telehealth continues its rapid growth, we are pleased to use our unparalleled data repository to uncover layers that have been difficult to study," said Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health. "We offer the information in this report for the benefit of all healthcare stakeholders with an interest in the emergence and contours of telehealth."