Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Health Systems Use mHealth Education to Cut Readmissions, Boost Compliance

    mHealth Intelligence

    A West Virginia health system is using smart TVs and apps to better educate people with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease about their health. As a result, they’re seeing those patients less often in the hospital. Officials at the four-hospital, 956-bed Charleston Area Medical Center reported a 22 percent decrease in readmissions among its COPD patients, and an almost 30 percent decrease in CHF readmissions, for the first half of 2016, compared to the previous year. They’ve also seen a sharp increase in patient engagement and satisfaction rates, as evidence in their HCAHPS scores. With a reduction in readmissions for pneumonia as well, health system officials are looking to expand the patient education platform to other departments. “Seeing this positive trend in reducing readmissions and improving satisfaction has led other units and departments to look at the patient engagement system as a way to improve delivery of education and better prepare patients for taking care of themselves after discharge,” Beverly Thornton, RN, CAMC’s Health Education and Research Institute education director, said in a press release.

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  • Doctors Can Use Robotic Telemedicine to Assess Coma Patients

    Smithsonian.com

    We don’t expect your son to survive the night. You should prepare your goodbyes.” I’ll never forget the look of anguish in the young doctor’s eyes as he delivered the news. His words opened a wound in my heart that still bleeds when I think back to that evening in April of 2006—the night my son Adam fell into a coma. We had just traveled by ambulance from our small rural hospital to a larger, better equipped medical facility in Portland, Maine, nearly two hours away. It was a risky transfer, but we were assured it was my son’s best shot. I couldn’t give up now. So, rather than goodbyes, I made the conscious decision to rally for my child. And I knew Adam would do the same. He was a fighter—a kid that overcame obstacles and defied anything that tried to hold him back. Together, we hunkered down in the ICU. There are moments when I can still smell the heat from the machines humming around us. To distract myself from the overwhelming complexity of the tubes, wires and rainbow of flashing lights, I timed my own breathing with the rise and fall of his ventilator. And I watched. I watched every swell of his chest, each tiny twitch of his hands. I monitored the lineup of screens with numbers increasing and decreasing, learning from the nurses what was good and what needed to be addressed. When there was a change, any change, it didn’t matter how big or small, I reported my findings to the medical staff. The only time I left his side was at night—not by choice, by hospital policy.

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  • Senator Proceeding With New Texas Telemedicine Rules

    Healthcare D Magazine

    Texas may be on the road to revising its telemedicine regulations, with Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) saying he would sponsor a bill that “eliminates the requirement for physicians to meet with patients in-person before using telehealth services.” Texas is one of the last states in the country to mandate that an in-person physician and patient relationship must be established before telehealth services can be used. According to mHealth Intelligence, a compromise bill is reported to be heading to the Legislature to eliminate this requirement. “I think we will have a bill very soon,” Schwertner told the Houston Chronicle. Texas’ telemedicine battle started in 2011, when the state medical board told health professionals they risked losing their licenses if they failed to arrange an in-person meeting with patients before doing business, such as prescribing medication online or on the phone. 

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  • Telehealth Education Leads to Lower Readmissions for West Virginia Hospital System

    Modern Healthcare

    Readmissions for congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have decreased at Charleston Area Medical Center after the four-hospital West Virginia system implemented new telehealth technology. The technology, called SmarTigr and made by Raleigh, N.C.-based Telehealth Services, includes smart TVs, software, and mobile apps to educate patients about their care and medications. SmarTigr is connected to electronic medical records to automatically provide "video prescriptions" for patients with information about their specific conditions. Medical staff can monitor patients' compliance and understanding of the information through activity reports—included in patients' medical records—and patient quizzes that "nurse navigators" use to provide additional information. Early results from the introduction of the system are promising, with readmissions for congestive heart failure down more than 22% and for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease down nearly 30% in the first half of 2016 compared to the year before. CAMC has also seen boosted HCAHPS satisfaction scores. Dr. Don Lilly, associate chief medical officer at CAMC and a cardiologist, points to the video aspect of the system as an effective learning tool. "Many patients are visual learners and can better retain information from videos than from reading patient handouts," he said in a news release. He also cited the fact that the quizzes are displayed on hospital-room televisions as a way for not only patients but also family members to become more engaged, so they can better support patients once they leave the hospital. 

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  • Texas Draft Bill Could Open Way for Telemedicine

    Medscape

    After several years of legal warfare over the right of telemedicine companies to provide services in Texas, the two sides have worked out compromise state legislation that would allow virtual visits to go forward under specific rules. This news follows the recent suspension of a lawsuit that Teladoc, a national telemedicine provider, had filed against the Texas Medical Board (TMB). Under a draft bill championed by State Senator Charles Schwertner, MD, chair of the Texas Senate's Committee on Health and Human Services, a valid practitioner-patient relationship would be considered to exist between a telemedicine provider and a patient whom he or she had not previously treated in person if the telemedicine practitioner met certain requirements. The virtual encounter would either have to be a synchronous audio-visual interaction between the practitioner and the patient in another location, or it could involve "store-and-forward" technology plus an audio-only interaction if the practitioner used information from the patient's medical records or photo or video images. In either case, the practitioner must have access to and use relevant clinical information to meet the same standard of care required for in-person encounters.

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  • Telemedicine Legislation Clears Arkansas House Committee

    Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

    Legislation that would allow phone-based health care services in Arkansas, while restricting telemedicine in schools, cleared another hurdle Thursday when it won a favorable recommendation from a House committee. Sponsored by West Memphis Democratic Rep. Deborah Ferguson, whose husband is a radiologist, House Bill 1437 would remove restrictions enacted by the Legislature in 2015 that have prevented Arkansans from being able to use smartphones or computers to receive diagnoses and prescriptions from doctors they have never met in person. The bill also would create new restrictions for schools, requiring authorization from a child's primary-care physician before an exam could be conducted in a school using telemedicine. That restriction came in response to concerns about a pilot project allowing pupils of Angie Grant Elementary School in Benton to receive video examinations, conducted in the school nurse's office, from a doctor with Arkansas Children's Hospital. The hospital has plans to expand the program to 40 schools in more than 10 districts, which has sparked fears by some lawmakers that it will take business from pediatricians and family-practice doctors in those areas. Marcy Doderer, chief executive of Children's Hospital, spoke against identical legislation, Senate Bill 146 by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, at a meeting last week of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. 

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  • Examining the Rocky Road to Telehealth Parity

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth advocates have long argued that online and digital healthcare should be treated the same as in-person healthcare. But the call for parity isn’t so simple. Parity in telehealth is approached on two levels: Service and payment. If a telehealth service exists that can match an in-person service – say, primary care, specialty care or emergency care – it should be made available to consumers. Thus, people who can’t easily access healthcare in person can get the care they need via telehealth. But for providers, that new service has to have a return on value, and it’s usually found in reimbursements. If a doctor or health system can’t get paid for providing the service, they probably won’t use it. So it’s up to the payers – government and private – to place a value on telehealth that gives healthcare providers a compelling reason (for now, at least) to adopt it.

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  • Texas, Utah Move Forward With New Telemedicine Rules

    mHealth Intelligence

    The battle in Texas to ease one of the country’s most restrictive telemedicine laws may be ending, with a compromise bill reported to be heading to the Legislature. State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, told the Houston Chronicle he’ll sponsor the bill, which could eliminate the requirement that physicians meet with patients in person before using telehealth. Texas is one of the last states to mandate that the doctor-patient relationship be established in person before telehealth can be used. "I think we will have a bill very soon," he said. Others hailed the apparent resolution of a years-long dispute, which began in 2011 when the state medical board told doctors they risked losing their licenses if they failed to meet in person with a patient before doing business online or on the phone. "This is significant, and will be a winner for everyone," said Nora Belcher, executive director of the Texas e-Healthcare Alliance. "This is going to get us a fair and open market for telemedicine in Texas." "(The Texas Medical Association) applauds Senator Schwertner for his leadership in helping us all pursue a compromise telemedicine bill on our patients' behalf," added Dr. Ray Callas, chairman of the association’s Council on Legislation. "While we are pleased that the seed of a legislative agreement is in place, we acknowledge that more work remains before it can grow into a new law to guide this valuable form of patient care for the future." In Utah, meanwhile, a bill to improve that state’s telemedicine rules also appears headed for passage – with one very noticeable restriction added.

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  • Are We Focusing On The Right Silent Killer? Digital Solutions Can Be The Answer To Mental Health

    Forbes

    The need for holistic treatment focusing on the person is increasingly becoming of paramount significance, especially when there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that physical and mental health are intrinsically interlinked and that one cannot treat each separately. In fact, most chronic diseases lead to mental health issues or vice versa. Studies report that more than 30% of patients suffering from colorectal cancer or coronary heart disease are prone to depression. Inversely, depressed patients are at a 1.6 times higher risk to develop diabetes or heart disease in their lifetime. While we continue to focus only on the physical manifestations, we cannot pay enough attention to the actual silent killer. The global annual cost of mental illnesses is set to rise to an immense $6 trillion in 2030, from $2.5 trillion in 2010. To put this amount in perspective, consider the global spend on healthcare in 2009–$5.1 trillion. Furthermore, the global treatment gap in 2004 for disorders such as depression and anxiety was more than 50% (half of the patients went untreated). Unfortunately, the situation has still not changed significantly.

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  • ​Telehealth Center Breaks Down Barriers to Healthcare

    The Cavalier Daily

    The University’s Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth has saved Virginians over 16 million miles of travel in its more than two-decade history of combating disparities in the access and timeliness of healthcare. Telemedicine is broadly defined as the use of advanced technologies to improve the quality of healthcare. It allows for remote treatment or consultation between specialists and patients or other medical providers. The University’s Telehealth Center was co-founded 22 years ago by its namesake — Dr. Karen Rheuban, who is a pediatric cardiologist in the University Health System. The Center now provides services in over 60 specialties and subspecialties — with 152 local partners in Virginia and 22 international programs — such as the Tanzanian Women’s Global Health Initiative and a surgical case teleconference in Rwanda. Through the Center’s partnership with the Swinfen Charitable Trust, University Health practitioners also provide free, store-and-forward consultations for medical professionals in over 70 countries. This type of telemedicine allows practitioners to store medical images and data, send it to one of the Center’s specialists and receive feedback outside of real-time. “There’s no billing that happens with that,” Rheuban said. “The same is true for the work we’re doing in Rwanda [and] for the work we’re doing in Uganda — this is more in support of our educational and research missions, but what we do with telemedicine is charitable here.”

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  • FCC Reversal on Broadband Subsidies Dampens Telehealth's Potential

    Healthcare DIVE

    There are currently 23 million Americans without high-speed internet, according to the FCC. More than 12 million households without access to internet would qualify for subsidies under the proposal, according to data collected by the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the Lifeline program. The potential for telemedicine to improve access to health is limited if people do not have the internet. Last month, Pew Research reported 77% of Americans own a smartphone today. In April 2015, they stated lower income and "smartphone-dependent" users are likely to use their phone for job and employment activities. In addition to employment activities, smartphones have the potential to gain healthcare services access to lower-income individuals. A study led by Dr. Kenneth M. McConnochie from the University of Rochester posits telehealth could benefit lower-income families who may forgo healthcare services otherwise.  But those families would likely need reliable internet to easily use such services. A significant portion of the 12 million that could gain high-speed internet access is also likely eligible for or covered by Medicaid. CMS issued a final rule last year prompting states to explore opportunities for telehealth in Medicaid programs.   The FCC has an important role in improving telehealth services. 

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  • Utah Moves to Ban Telehealth for Doctors Prescribing Abortion-Inducing Medications

    Healthcare IT News

    Overall, Utah lawmakers want to promote the use of telemedicine in the state. But a new piece of legislation seeking to modernize various telehealth rules in the state also has another goal that has catapulted the bill into a debate: prohibit the use of telemedicine to prescribe medication to induce an abortion. Introduced by Republican Representative Ken Ivory, the amendment bill HB 154 mainly works to clarify definitions surrounding reimbursement models for physicians providing telehealth services, but the end of the bill specifically states practitioners “may not issue a prescription through electronic prescribing for a drug or treatment to cause an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother would be endangered without an abortion.”   The bill moved from the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Standing Committee and is onto the full House, where it is expected to pass in the majority Republican legislature. If passed, Utah would be the 20th state in the country that requires a doctor to be physically present when prescribing abortion-inducing medication. The amendment is similar to bills that have recently been struck down in other states. Idaho recently stopped banning the use of telemedicine to provide abortion-inducing medication following the settlement of a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, and that organization also won a similar lawsuit in Iowa in 2015 when the state Supreme Court ruled a 2013 rule preventing doctors from administering abortion-inducing medication via telehealth was unconstitutional. 

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  • Arkansas Moves to OK Telehealth at Home

    mHealth Intelligence

    Arkansas lawmakers are moving toward new telehealth regulations that would resolve an “originating site” issue that caused problems last year. But they may be wading into new problems with school-based programs. The state Senate’s Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee voted this week to approve amendments to the state’s telemedicine rules that would, among other things, enable residents to access telehealth services from their home or other remote locations. The bill now passes to the full state Senate. Arkansas Act 887, signed into law in 2015, stipulates that an originating site must be in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office. That drew the ire of healthcare providers seeking to launch remote monitoring programs and large businesses like Wal-Mart and trucking company H.B. Hunt, who noted the law prevents their employees from accessing telehealth through mobile devices at home or on the road. Arkansas Senate Bill 146, submitted on January 19 by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, would define an originating site as wherever the patient is located. The bill also states that healthcare providers treating minors in a school telehealth program must either:

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  • New Jersey Boosts Telehealth Access for Veterans

    mHealth Intelligence

    New Jersey’s Virtua Health is getting almost $300,000 to enhance its telehealth platform for veterans. The health system, consisting of four hospitals, dozens of clinics and care facilities, a fleet of mobile intensive care units and a home care services, will use the grant from the New Jersey Department of Health to, among other things, coordinate care for veterans through InSight Telepsychiatry. “For many veterans, travel to see a healthcare provider can be complicated and overwhelming, particularly in areas where transportation options might be limited,” Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said in a press release. “Telehealth can ease the burden by offering long-distance virtual care to veterans while they remain in a comfortable environment.” While the Department of Veterans Affairs is well-known for his telehealth program, advocates say some veterans are staying away from VA hospitals because of concerns about overcrowding or quality of care. They may also have mobility or transportation issues, or emotional issues that keep them away from hospitals. 

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  • Telemedicine Gains Popularity in Schools, Connects Ailing Students with Doctors

    The Washington Post

    In late November, on the first cold morning of the season, a second-grader at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, Md., had trouble breathing during recess. When the school nurse, Veronica DeSimone, examined the girl, she heard wheezing in her chest and determined that the child was having an asthma attack. The nurse would have administered relieving medication, but the girl’s parents hadn’t yet signed a permission form or delivered their daughter’s medicine to the Howard County school. The girl’s father, the only parent available, was at work, at least an hour away. There was no time to wait for him to come get his daughter. Not long ago, DeSimone would have had to call an ambulance to take the child to the emergency room, forcing her to miss the rest of her classes that day. Instead, DeSimone set up an online video and audio link to a pediatrician at Howard County General Hospital’s emergency room. Having previously received permission from the girl’s parents to participate in the school’s telemedicine program, DeSimone examined her with a digital stethoscope, which allowed the pediatrician to listen to the girl’s lungs remotely. The doctor quickly confirmed DeSimone’s diagnosis and directed her to administer the necessary medicine. Within 10 minutes, the child was breathing normally and back in class. Telemedicine, increasingly used in prisons, nursing homes and remote areas, is becoming more common in schools.

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