Healthcare Insights

The healthcare specialties that use telehealth the most

From routine check-ups to preoperative surgical consultations and remote therapy sessions, practitioners use telehealth to support the delivery of all kinds of medical-related services. Its adoption and utilization have expanded significantly, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While telehealth is often used interchangeably with “telemedicine,” they can have different meanings. According to the FCC, telemedicine refers to medical, diagnostic, and treatment-related services provided by doctors. Telehealth is similar but includes a wider range of remote healthcare services provided by nurses, pharmacists, or social workers.

A healthcare provider’s telehealth usage – or lack thereof – can be vitally important information for software and IT companies offering telehealth solutions. Understanding which primary specialties bill the most telehealth claims can help these companies gain a deeper understanding of the market, leading to more accurate segmentation and better account prioritization.

Below, we used the Definitive Healthcare PhysicianView product to identify the top primary specialties with the most providers utilizing telehealth technology in 2022.

Top telehealth utilization by specialty

Rank Primary specialty  Number of providers  Explore dataset
Social Worker - Licensed Clinical Social Worker                         27,165  Explore
Nurse - Nurse Practitioner                         15,057  Explore
Psychology - Clinical Psychologist                         12,540  Explore
Psychiatry                           8,495  Explore
Physician Assistant                           3,204  Explore
Family Practice                           3,135  Explore
Internal Medicine                           2,475  Explore
Dietitian/Nutrition Professional                           1,907  Explore
Pediatric Medicine                           1,143  Explore
10 Therapy - Speech Language Pathologist                              943 Explore

Fig. 1 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare PhysicianView product. Data accurate as of September 2023.

Which specialties have the most providers using telehealth?

Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) take first place with more than 27,000 providers actively using telehealth in 2022. According to the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work, these professionals make up the largest group of mental healthcare providers in the U.S. LCSWs may help patients work through behavioral disorders or mental illnesses, and often work in conjunction with doctors, psychiatrists, and others to get patients the services they need. As we’ll explain below, LCSWs (and many other healthcare providers) use telehealth because of the benefits it offers when treating patients with mental health conditions.

Nurse practitioners are in second place, with 15,057 providers using telehealth technology to deliver care in 2022. Clinical psychologists are in third place for telehealth utilization with 12,540 providers.

When looking at telehealth utilization by specialty, three of the top 10 specialties deal with mental health, including licensed clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, and psychiatry. This aligns with our data on telehealth diagnoses in recent years. Eleven of the top 20 telehealth diagnoses of 2021 were related to mental and behavioral health, including conditions such as anxiety and depression, PTSD, ADHD, and more.

What are the best specialties for telehealth?

Many healthcare practices incorporate telehealth in some parts of their daily operations. However, healthcare specialties that focus on treating patients with mental or behavioral health conditions may benefit the most from using telehealth. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Continuity of care. Telehealth helps ensure patients maintain their relationship with their provider even when faced with disruptions due to travel, relocation, or unforeseen circumstances.
  • Improved accessibility. Telehealth breaks down geographic barriers by making mental health (and other types of care) available to anyone with an internet-enabled device. This is particularly beneficial to people who live in clinically underserved and rural areas, as access to transportation, distance from providers, and getting time off from work to see a specialist are often significant obstacles.
  • Increased privacy. Telehealth offers patients a safe, secure, HIPAA-compliant space to work through mental illness or condition in the comfort of their own homes. According to the American Psychiatric Association, this added layer of privacy may help eliminate social stigmas around mental health and encourage more patients to pursue the care they need.

For more information on how mental health-related specialties are using telehealth to improve patient care, and how new technologies are changing the landscape, read our perspective on the top mental health trends of 2023.

Learn more

Healthcare Insights are developed with healthcare commercial intelligence from the Definitive Healthcare platform. Want even more insights? Start a free trial now and get access to the latest healthcare commercial intelligence on hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers.