The impact of telemental health use on healthcare costs among commercially insured adults with mental health conditions

Xiaohui Zhao, Sandipan Bhattacharjee, Kim E. Innes, Traci J. LeMasters, Nilanjana Dwibedi, Usha Sambamoorthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: To determine the impact of telemental health (TMH) use on total healthcare costs and mental health (MH)-related costs paid by a third party among adults with mental health conditions (MHC). Method: This study employed a pre-post design with a non-equivalent control group. The cohort comprised adults with MHCs identified using diagnosis codes from de-identified claims data of the Optum Clinformatics DataMart (2010 January 01 to 2017 June 30). We identified mental health (MH) service users and TMH users (N = 348) based on procedure codes. Non-users (N = 238,595) were defined as those who only used in-person MH services. A Difference-in-Differences (DID) analysis was performed within a multivariable two-part model (TPM) framework to examine the impact of TMH use on adjusted standardized costs (2018 US $) of all healthcare services and MH services. Patient-level and state-level factors were adjusted in TPM. Results: TMH use was associated with significantly higher MH-related costs [Marginal effect = $461.3, 95% confidence interval: $142.4–$780.2] and an excess of $370 increase in MH-related costs at follow-up as compared to baseline. However, TMH use was not associated with an increase in total third-party healthcare costs nor with changes in total costs from baseline to follow-up. Conclusions: Despite having a higher likelihood of MH services use and MH-related costs, TMH users did not have higher total costs as compared to adults using only in-person MH services. Our findings suggest that TMH can increase access to MH care without increasing total healthcare costs among adults with MHC. Future studies exploring whether TMH use can lead to cost-savings over a longer period are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1541-1548
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Medical Research and Opinion
Volume36
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Keywords

  • Telemental health
  • difference-in-differences
  • healthcare cost
  • mental health service

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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