March 13 (Reuters) - Teladoc Health Inc on Friday said it experienced a 50% spike in patient visit volume over the prior week, in what the telehealth company called an "unprecedented daily visit volume" in the United States, as the coronavirus spreads globally.
The company said it had been handling visit demand consistent with peak flu volumes, but on Wednesday began to see that number accelerate to as much as 15,000 visits requested per day.
"We are seeing more patients and more of those patients are experiencing upper respiratory issues," Teladoc's chief medical officer Lew Levy said.
The coronavirus has infected 138,000 people worldwide, killed more than 5,000 and shuttered schools, sports arenas, theaters and offices.
The demand for virtual care visits has accelerated as several health plans have waived consumer cost sharing and public health officials at all levels of government have encouraged the public to take advantage of virtual care services, the company said.
Several U.S. health insurers such as CVS Health Corp's Aetna, Humana Inc and Cigna Corp have said that they would waive patient costs for telemedicine visits for a limited period, in response to the health agencies urging patients to stay at home to contain infection.
Teladoc, a market leader in the U.S. telehealth industry, said more than half of all the patient visits this month are from first time users.
Other telehealth companies such as Grand Rounds Inc and American Well last week said they were seeing increased patient traffic, driven by the virus outbreak.
Teladoc, which said it has been partnering with the CDC to provide near real-time surveillance data on the spread of the virus, last month said it was still too early in the outbreak to judge whether the virus would boost its business.
Shares of Teladoc have surged about 53% to $127.9, so far this year. (Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry)