Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Telemedicine Tied to Faster ER Care in Rural Areas

    Medical Xpress

    Nicholas M. Mohr, M.D., from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and colleagues measured the impact of emergency department-based telemedicine on the timeliness of care in rural hospitals, as measured by door-to-provider time. They performed a cohort study involving 2,857 emergency department patients who consulted telemedicine and were matched (2:1) to non-telemedicine controls based on age, diagnosis, and hospital.  The researchers found that door-to-provider time was six minutes shorter in telemedicine patients. In 41.7 percent of the encounters, a telemedicine provider was the first to see the patient. In these cases, telemedicine occurred 14.7 minutes earlier than care by local providers. Overall, emergency department length of stay was 40.2 minutes longer for all telemedicine patients. However, emergency department length of stay was 22.1 minutes shorter among patients transferred to other hospitals.  "Future work will focus on the clinical impact of more timely rural emergency department care," write the authors.  Three study authors are employed by the Avera eCARE, which provides emergency department-based telemedicine services.  

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  • Study: Telemedicine Consults Help Save About $500 Per Patient

    mHealth Intelligence

    A telemedicine consult platform for cardiology cases saved almost $500 per patient in Medicaid costs over in-person treatments, according to a newly released study.  In what’s being billed as the first published randomized study of the eConsult platform, researchers at Community Health Center and the University of Connecticut Health Center found that the telemedicine platform, which facilitates virtual consults with a specialist, yielded lower mean adjusted total costs of $655 per patient, or lower mean costs of $466 when adjusted for non-normality, compared to those using face-to-face consults over a six-month span.  In addition, the eConsult group reported reduced costs of $81 per patient for outpatient cardiac procedures, as well as improving access to care for underserved patients and reducing the rate of no-shows for providers.  “The results of our analysis show for the first time that when [primary care providers] are given an option to use eConsults for Medicaid beneficiaries, the total costs and the cost of outpatient cardiac tests and procedures at 6 months are significantly lower, by $466 and $81, respectively, compared with the traditional [face-to-face] approach,” the study, highlighted in the January issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, reported.

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  • Study Shows Telemedicine Potential in EDs

    Healthcare DIVE

    ED-based telemedicine is used in many rural hospitals to offer “specialty care and expertise to patients with critical time-sensitive conditions,” according to the report. The study reviewed information from more than 120,000 encounters at 14 rural hospitals in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Telemedicine is often promoted as a way to help remote patients and areas with physician shortages, but this study showed that telemedicine can help in-hospital, too. Though telemedicine is seen as a way to help rural healthcare, recent actions in Washington may hamper greater utilization.  The loss of net neutrality has raised alarms that rural health systems might slow telemedicine in places that need it most. The fear is that rural providers won’t be able to handle the costs associated with priority broadband access and rural hospitals might fall behind subscriber-based video streaming services with broadband servers blocking content and implementing fast lanes for preferred customers.  

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  • Is Project ECHO the Telemedicine Model That Healthcare Is Missing?

    mHealth Intelligence

    A telemedicine platform developed about 15 years ago in New Mexico is now helping thousands of doctors across the country learn from specialists and manage care for patients with complex conditions.  Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) uses a hub-and-spoke model to connect rural and remote practitioners with specialists to discuss cases that would otherwise be sent to large — and distant — health systems. It’s now in use in more than 130 hubs across the United States, at health systems from Hawaii to Florida, as well as 23 other countries.  The basic model places an academic medical center or large health system at the hub and provides telemedicine links to primary care providers, clinics and federally qualified health centers who participate in teleECHO clinics, which can take place weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Through a secure teleconferencing platform, primary care providers present their patient cases for review by specialists, discuss new trends and techniques, and gather advice from their peers on how to treat their patients.  

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  • Telehealth Gives Rural Missouri More Access to Health Care

    U.S. News and World Report

    With a population just shy of 5,000, the town of St. Robert lies just south of the heart of Missouri. It's one of the many rural towns in the state that finds alternatives to health care access through the internet.  Since the early 1990s, the telehealth network has helped connect patients to health care providers from their own homes. Increasing technology has made the service more efficient, with live audio and video sessions enhancing virtual health care.  The Columbia Missourian reports that telehealth services rely on internet access to conduct sessions, and Missouri is one of the worst states in terms of broadband access in rural areas.  Jon Moore, a physician's assistant at Mercy Clinic Family Medicine in St. Robert, relocated to the town from Fort Leonard Wood in 1998 and has been practicing dermatology with telehealth services since then. Despite believing that dermatology is underserved in the area, Moore says that telehealth services are invaluable in a small community like St. Robert. Moore said that as broadband access has improved, the health services have improved.  

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  • Loss of Net Neutrality Could Slow Telehealth Access

    Healthcare DIVE

    December is a time to reflect on the coming new year and make resolutions for the coming year to enact change. For the federal government, the repeal of net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission was one decision that will continue to create aftershocks in 2018.  Net neutrality barred broadband providers from slowing information slow or exacting higher payments for speedy delivery. The move could have serious ramifications for telehealth and other digital health services, particularly in rural and underserved communities. And with CMS’ penalty structure for readmissions in place and the move to consumerism, providers need to figure out their digital strategy and what the FCC's decision means for them.  

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  • Turning to Telemedicine for Prisoners' Mental Health Treatment

    Modern Healthcare

    On one end sits a prisoner facing a screen, the sound of a freeway hundreds of miles away faint through the computer speakers. On the other end, next to that freeway, sits a doctor in a nondescript office building near Houston. Telemedicine brings the two together, allowing Dr. Li-Yun Chuo, a psychiatrist for University of Texas Medical Branch, to see patients in prisons across Texas.  While the nation struggles with an overall shortage of mental health providers, so do prisons, where the demand for mental healthcare is stunningly great: Of the 2.2 million people currently in prison or jail in the U.S., 26% of those in jail and 14% of those in prison met the Bureau of Justice Statistics' "threshold for serious psychological distress," compared to just 5% in the general population.

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  • Senate passes VETS Act, Enhancing Telehealth Access for Veterans

    mHealth Intelligence

    Veterans will soon be able to access healthcare no matter where they live through a telehealth connection.  The Senate has unanimously passed The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 (S.925), following the House’s unanimous approval of H.R. 2123 in November.  Because the Senate bill is slightly different from the House bill – it bars states from denying or revoking a physician’s license for using telemedicine across state lines - the two chambers of Congress will have to agree on one bill before sending it to the White House for the President’s signature.  The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in the Senate and Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) in the House, enables doctors employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use telemedicine to treat veterans no matter where they live. It also gives those practitioners an exemption from state licensure laws for this particular service.  It also mandates that VA Secretary David Shulkin report back to Congress within the year on “the effectiveness of the use of telemedicine by the Department of Veterans Affairs.”  

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  • Kaiser Study Gives Telemedicine High Marks in Stroke Treatment

    mHealth Intelligence

    Some 20 hospitals in northern California are using telemedicine carts to treat stroke patients almost twice as fast as the national average for stroke treatment. The hospitals, all part of the Kaiser Permanente network, are using the Stroke EXPRESS (EXpediting the Process of Evaluating and Stopping Stroke) program to improve the time between when a patient is seen and when the clot-busting medication r-tPA is administered. Through the program, stroke specialists are able to evaluate stroke patients at those 21 hospitals via a telemedicine cart and prescribe r-tPA when necessary. According to a study published this month in the journal Stroke, 87 percent of stroke patients in those hospital were treated within 60 minutes – the recommended “door-to-needle” time put forth by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Nationally, less than 30 percent of stroke patients are treated within this window.  More importantly, according to the Kaiser Permanente study, 73 percent of stroke patients in those hospitals were treated within 45 minutes and 41 percent were treated within 30 minutes; the average “door-to-needle” time was 34 minutes.  “Processes that used to happen sequentially during a stroke alert, one after another, are now happening at the same time, allowing us to quickly, safely and confidently provide evaluation and treatment with intravenous r-tPA to stroke patients who can benefit,” Jeffrey Klingman, MD, chairman of the Chiefs of Neurology for Kaiser Permanente Northern California and a co-author of the study, said in a press release issued by Kaiser Permanente.  

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  • FCC Votes to Waive $400k Funding Cap on Rural Telehealth Program for FY17

    Beckers Hospital Review

    The Federal Communications Commission launched a review of its telehealth-focused Rural Health Care Program Dec. 14. The Rural Health Care Program provides eligible healthcare providers with funding for broadband and telecommunications services that enhance high-quality care. However, the FCC anticipates demand for the program is likely to exceed its allocated funding, which is capped at $400 million per year. Under the order adopted by the FCC Dec. 14, the agency waived the Rural Health Care Program's annual funding cap on a one-time basis. The agency instructed the Universal Service Administrative Co. — an independent nonprofit designated by the FCC — to carry over unused program funds from prior years for use in fiscal year 2017, which runs through June 30, 2018. The FCC is also seeking public comments on whether to permanently increase the Rural Health Care Program's $400 million funding cap. "With a broadband connection, healthcare providers in small-town America can deliver the same quality of healthcare as those in our nation's big cities," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who released the proposal to increase program funding Nov. 22. "The FCC can and does promote this potential."

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  • Hospitals Turn to Telemedicine to Tackle ER Triage, Overcrowding

    mHealth Intelligence

    A telemedicine platform that helps emergency departments triage patients just might be the answer to crowded ERs and physician staffing issues.   The virtual visit platform, developed by the Wisconsin-based startup EmOpti, is currently being used in eight hospitals in four health systems: Wisconsin’s Aurora Health Care, MedStar in Washington D.C., Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare.  In those hospitals, patients admitted to the ED who aren’t immediately seen by a doctor can be seen by secure video-conferencing technology by a doctor or physician assistant in a remote “command center.” The physician or PA examines the patient with the help of on-site triage nurses and can order tests or prescribe medications.

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  • Telemedicine Advocates Cry Foul Over FCC’s Net Neutrality Plan

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth and telemedicine experts are warning that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to scrap net neutrality rules could seriously damage telehealth expansion in rural parts of the country and create a two-tiered system for telemedicine connectivity. “All hospitals consume huge amounts of bandwidth. All hospitals have wireless connectivity,” says Robert Annas, senior managing director at SOLIC Capital and chief operating officer for Eagle Telemedicine. “Limiting that is not the answer.” Pai has scheduled an FCC vote on December 14 to end net neutrality, which requires Internet Service Providers to allot the same bandwidth to all sites and prevents them from delaying, slowing or charging extra for bandwidth. “One aspect of this proposal I think is worth highlighting here is the flexibility it would give for prioritizing services that could make meaningful differences in the delivery of healthcare.,” he said in a Nov. 30 speech.” By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization - such as latency-sensitive telemedicine.  Now, we can’t predict exactly which innovations entrepreneurs will come up with.  But by replacing an outright ban with a robust transparency requirement and FTC-led consumer protection, we will enable these services to come into being and help seniors.”

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  • TripleCare Expands SNF Telemedicine Services in Virginia

    Modern Healthcare

    Telemedicine provider TripleCare is expanding into to more skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.  For the first time, the company will have a presence in Virginia, where it's bringing its telemedicine services to Saber Healthcare Group's facilities. TripleCare already provides services to Saber skilled nursing facilities in Pennsylvania, which are among Saber's 105 facilities across six states.  "An increasing number of SNFs are recognizing that telemedicine can bring added physician services that help them avoid readmissions to hospitals by treating patients in place through virtual bedside visits," said TripleCare CEO Mary Jo Gorman. "In addition to this Saber relationship, we've seen our business grow significantly this past year."  The expansion into Virginia is set to be done by the end of the year.  TripleCare, based in New York City, has contracts with more than 60 skilled nursing facilities in 10 states. Each facility usually works with about four of TripleCare's 30 physicians, which the company says allows for continuity of care. These physicians are paid hourly, rather than on a fee-for-service basis.

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  • Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on advancing new digital health policies to encourage innovation, bring efficiency and modernization to regulation

    FDA

    Today we’re announcing three new, significant policy documents to advance the FDA’s approach to the development and proper oversight of innovative digital health tools. We know that consumers and health care providers are increasingly embracing digital health technologies to inform everyday decisions. From fitness trackers to mobile applications tracking insulin administration, these digital tools can provide consumers with a wealth of valuable health information. Further, clinical evidence demonstrates that consumers who are better informed about health make better and more efficient decisions, take steps to improve their lifestyles and their health choices, and often experience better outcomes.  Given these meaningful benefits from empowering consumers, we believe the FDA must, whenever possible, encourage the development of tools that can help people be more informed about their health.

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  • North Dakota Lawmakers Mull Video-Only Telehealth for First Visits

    mHealth Intelligence

    North Dakota lawmakers are grappling with a proposal to restrict telemedicine in first-time episodic patient care, a move that could prevent rural residents from accessing care online. The state Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee has tabled a proposal to limit first-time telehealth encounters between doctors and new patients to video-only, following complaints from Teladoc and others that the new rule would eliminate phone-, text-based and some store-and-forward consults. The proposal was submitted by the North Dakota Board of Medicine, whose members feel that patients must initially “see” a doctor – either in person or by video – to establish a proper relationship for care. “The intent of the board is to ensure that the standard of care is no different in an in-person meeting with your provider than it would be through a telemedicine meeting,” Bonnie Storbakken, the board’s executive director, said in a written presentation to the committee.

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