Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Telehealth: A Vital Tool in the Home Healthcare Space

    mHealth Intelligence

    A North Carolina-based health system is one of several using telehealth to improve its home healthcare services – a critical move in light of expected cuts in home health reimbursements from Medicare. FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a five-hospital health system based in Pinehurst, N.C., reportedly saved almost $2 million by using telehealth to care for high-risk patients who don’t qualify for Medicare-funded home health services. The health system used a grant from the Duke Endowment to create a care management program for selected patients in its Medicare Advantage plan. Under the pilot program, launched in late 2015, the patients were visited by a home health nurse within 48 hours of discharge, then given an mHealth enabled tablet that allows them to track their own vital signs and send that data to FirstHealth. The digital health platform also enabled patients to access personalized health and wellness information and collaborate with FirstHealth on an ongoing care plan. According to health system officials, while the telehealth platform cost roughly $700 per patient for a 60-day care plan, rehospitalizations would have cost the health system more than $8,000 for each patient – none of which is covered by Medicare, and some of which could have cost the health system even more in penalties.

    more

  • Texas Ready to Take on New Telemedicine Rules

    mHealth Intelligence

    Texas lawmakers are ready to review a bill that would define telehealth and telemedicine and enable clinicians in the state to use the platform to establish a physician-patient relationship. Submitted this week by State Sen. Perry Schwertner, R-Georgetown, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and an orthopedic surgeon, S.B. 1107 sets definitions for telehealth, telemedicine and store-and-forward technology and creates guidelines for physicians using technology. The bill specifically eliminates current wording that requires a face-to-face meeting between doctor and patient before the doctor can use telemedicine for certain services, such as issuing a prescription. The bill also bans physicians from using telemedicine to prescribe “an abortifacient or any other drug or device that terminates a pregnancy.” If passed, Texas would become the 20th state to specifically ban telemedicine abortions.

    more

  • Can Telemedicine Revolutionize Rural Healthcare in Africa?

    Smart Villages

    Huw Jones traces the earliest origins of The Virtual Doctors to a trail of blood he saw while travelling through rural Zambia to buy pumpkins for soup. It was the mid-1990s and he was employed there as a safari guide. Soon, he found the source of the bleeding: A woman riding on a bicycle pedaled by her husband. She’d gone into labour and they were trying to reach a hospital about 60 miles away. Jones gave the couple a ride in his car, but it was too late. “It kind of just blew me away, watching her bleed to death in the back of my vehicle,” he says. The more Jones learned about health care in Zambia, the more problems he discovered. Twenty to 30 percent of visits to rural clinics ended in a referral to the local hospital, resulting in expensive and time-consuming trips. Particularly if the patient was the head of a household, these journeys could cause real financial damage. Often, the referrals could have been avoided if the local clinician had access to more information. Jones was not a doctor, so he couldn’t help patients directly. But he knew many doctors from around the world who’d worked in Zambia and wanted to stay involved. He imagined a network of volunteer doctors who would take questions from health clinic workers in the countryside, thereby providing better diagnoses at the local level and reducing the need for referrals. 

    more

  • Telemedicine On the Rise at Vermont Hospitals

    VT Digger

    At Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, emergency room patients are connecting via video with neurologists who are more than 60 miles away. At the Brattleboro Retreat, administrators soon will be setting up remote psychiatry consults. And starting next week, a group of patients suffering from diabetes and hypertension will be chatting with Grace Cottage Hospital staffers by webcam from the comfort of their own homes. Windham County’s hospitals are jumping on board a trend that seems to be, in the words of one local nurse, “gaining momentum quite rapidly” in Vermont: Health care providers are investing in new forms of telemedicine or “telehealth,” terms used for the practice of linking doctors, nurses and patients who aren’t in the same physical space. The investments come as technology continues to improve and as state legislators consider a bill that expands insurance reimbursement for telemedicine. Health care administrators say those developments, along with new focus on preventive medicine, are leading to changes in how patients interact with their caregivers. “The timing is probably right politically and at all levels in health care in general,” said Crystal Mansfield, a member of Grace Cottage’s Community Health Team. “We could have done this 10 years ago, but the whole system wasn’t really ready.” 

    more

  • NATO Ready to Deploy Telemedicine Platform

    mHealth Intelligence

    NATO has finished testing a multinational telemedicine platform for emergency scenes or combat zones and is ready to deploy the suitcase-sized kits where needed around the world. The 28-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization made the announcement at a conference at its headquarters in Brussels. The telemedicine program, supported by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Program, was launched in 2013 and involved experts from the U.S., Romania, Finland, Moldova and the Ukraine. “In the event of a disaster, telemedicine helps eliminate distance barriers and improves access to medical services that would often not be available on the ground, even in remote areas,” Sorin Ducaru, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, said in a press release. 

    more

  • Telehealth Cuts Ambulance, Emergency Costs

    Medscape

    A telehealth initiative — in which emergency medical technicians use a tablet to connect patients with doctors instead of taking them to the emergency room — is reducing unnecessary visits and saving money in Houston, a new study shows. An added benefit of the program is that it connects patients with a medical home, said presenter James Langabeer, PhD, from the University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics in Houston. "For a lot of people, the medical home is the emergency department," he told Medscape Medical News here at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society 2017 Conference. "They think that's the only way they can pay for care." Emergency medical services respond to about 650,000 911 calls a year in Houston. And the number of 911 calls is rising, regardless of whether urban areas are gaining or losing population, Dr Langabeer reported. 

    more

  • Report: 58% of Patients Finds Two-Way At-Home Monitoring Devices Useful

    HIT Consultant

    58% of patients believe two-way, at-home monitoring devices are very useful to interact with their healthcare provider than a more basic one-way at-home device, according to a report from West. The report, Strengthening Chronic Care reveals while (50%) of patients feel an at-home medical device that measures their health using sensors and sends information back to providers for an evaluation would be extremely beneficial, nearly three in five believe a two-way at-home medical device that allows for additional communication would be useful. Ultimately, more patients prefer the idea of using a two-way at-home medical device to interact with their healthcare provider than a more basic one-way at-home device. Because there is so much evidence to show that patients need and want support all the time – not just when they are face to face with providers –advanced monitoring technology such as biometric devices and strategies that involve tailoring communications, are invaluable. The report finds that adopting these types of tools and strategies, providers can improve chronic care and drive better patient outcomes.When patient outcomes improve, unnecessary hospital readmissions and admissions decrease, patients have better overall healthcare experiences, and hospitals and health systems are able to earn more reimbursements and avoid penalties. 

    more

  • MDLive Expands to Offer Behavioral Telemedicine Services in All 50 States

    MobiHealth News

    Telemedicine provider MDLive, which has a behavioral health network of more than 1,300 mental health professionals, is now offering virtual psychiatric services with contracted psychiatrists in all 50 states. MDLive originally launched behavioral health services in November 2014 after they acquired online behavioral therapy provider Breakthrough Behavioral. Since that acquisition, the company reports it has conducted more than 50,000 virtual mental health visits and is now available to more than 10 million Americans as a covered benefit through their healthcare plans, as well as direct to all consumers for the price of a copay. MDLive claims it is the first telemedicine company to offer behavioral health services in all 50 states, which it says is critically needed at a time when mental health services are still not readily accessible to many Americans even though there is an estimated one in five people with a diagnosable mental disorder and the current wait time to see a professional averages 30 days. “Part of the mental health crisis in the US is due to the difficulty in finding and accessing qualified mental health practitioners in urban and rural areas,” MDLive CEO Scott Decker said in a statement.  

    more

  • Continua: Telehealth Platform Saved Lives After Japan Earthquake

    mHealth Intelligence

    A four-year study of survivors of the 2011 Japan earthquake has found that a remote monitoring platform conforming to Continua standards can reduce cardiac stress and improve long-term patient monitoring. The study, published last year in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, suggests that a telehealth platform can improve outcomes and even save lives if integrated with an internationally recognized interoperability framework that improves data transfer. "Study authors concluded that D-CAP saved lives," Patricia Mechael, PhD, executive vice president of the Personal Connected Health Alliance, said in a press release of Continua’s Disaster Cardiovascular Prevention Network, which was deployed following the earthquake. "User-friendly connections between Continua-certified devices reduced device and data integration time when it was medically critical. The Continua-certified network approach directly enabled positive outcomes for patients and demonstrated cost savings for vendors participating in the network." The Continua Health Alliance is a founding member of the three-year-old PCHA, along with the Healthcare Information and management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the mHealth Summit. 

    more

  • Telemedicine-Friendly FAST Act Heads Back to Congress

    mHealth Intelligence

     Congress is set to revisit a bill that would expand Medicare reimbursement nationwide for telestroke services. The Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act, originally introduced in 2015, would alter the Social Security Act to allow Medicare coverage of telestroke services no matter where the patient is located. Current legislation allows those services only in certain rural areas. U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), who co-sponsored the original legislation, made the announcement this week that they have reintroduced the bill, with the support of the American Heart Association and American Academy of Neurology. Both said they want to apply telemedicine technology that has proven its value in combatting the nation’s fifth leading cause of death. “The FAST Act, as the name implies, will help more stroke victims gain faster access to high-quality care through remote evaluation and treatment - commonly called telestroke,” Beatty said in a press release. “As a stroke survivor and co-chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition, I know firsthand how minutes can literally mean the difference between life and death. That is why I proudly join Congressman Griffith in reintroducing the FAST Act to ensure telestroke is readily available to more people.” 

    more

  • 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.

    more

  • 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.

    more

  • 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. 

    more

  • 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. 

    more

  • 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.

    more

Pages