Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Telehealth Continues Rapid Growth but Regulatory Barriers Persist

    Society for Human Resource Management

    Telehealth is transforming health care, allowing providers to deliver services when and where patients need them, thereby improving outcomes and lowering costs. Legal and regulatory roadblocks, however, still hinder telehealth providers' effectiveness, according to speakers at a Nov. 28 policy forum in Washington, D.C.  More employers are offering—and more employees are using—services that provide diagnosis, treatment or prescriptions following a consultation with a health care professional by phone or computer video.  Several bills introduced in Congress would help to make telehealth more accessible, said health care experts at the forum, sponsored by Health IT Now, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that supports expanding health information technology to improve patient care.  "Employers collectively spend $668 billion on health benefits each year. That's one of the reasons why employers are pursuing a wider array of approaches to reduce health care costs and risk," said Chatrane Birbal, a senior advisor for government relations at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).  

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  • Workers Comp Execs See Telehealth as a Tool to Manage Costs, Outcomes

    mHealth Intelligence

    Nearly half of workers compensation professionals recently surveyed say telehealth and telemedicine will have the biggest impact on the industry in the future. And more than half say it will help them contain rising healthcare costs. Those are the key take-aways from a survey of more than 275 workers comp professionals conducted by IT company Mitchell and Risk & Insurance magazine. It points to a growing belief that digital health can offer a more convenient and cost-effective platform for companies looking to keep their workforce healthy. In this case, industry leaders see telehealth as an important tool in connecting injured employees to healthcare and rehabilitation services, speeding up the recovery process and getting them back into the workforce. “As the workers’ compensation industry continues to navigate the ongoing challenges of rising health care costs and the need to create operational efficiencies, it’s clear that stakeholders are eager to explore the potential benefits of adopting advanced technologies,” Shahin Hatamian, senior vice president of product management and strategy for Mitchell’s Casualty Solutions division, said in a press release.

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  • Senate Bill Aimed at Modernizing VA Health System Includes Telehealth Licensing Provision

    FierceHealthcare

    A bill introduced by two senators on Monday designed to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs includes a provision that would allow physicians to practice telehealth across state lines.  Introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017 (PDF) would consolidate community care authorities into a single program, implement data-driven access and quality standards, improve walk-in care and ensure safe prescribing practices, among a slew of other requirements.  The senators also built in what has become a popular reform, allowing licensed VA physicians to practice telemedicine in any state regardless of where they are located. The language mimics the VETS Act, standalone legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives last month, and a rule proposed by the VA in September designed to support the agency’s “Anywhere-to-Anywhere” telehealth initiative.  

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  • Teladoc Drops Lawsuit Against Texas Medical Board Following Amended Telemedicine Regulations

    Fierce Healthcare

    Teladoc has dropped an antitrust lawsuit against the Texas Board of Medicine after the state finalized new regulations allowing physicians to treat patients virtually without a prior face-to-face interaction. The updated licensing regulations were adopted by the board last month and went into effect on November 26, months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation making Texas the last state in the country to do away with state policy that prevented patients from engaging with physicians via telehealth without a prior in-person interaction. Companies like Teladoc lobbied hard for the passage of the bill, eying new growth opportunities in the state. Last week, days after the new regulations went into effect, the national telehealth provider dropped its antitrust lawsuit against the state medical board that began in 2015 when the board adopted a policy prohibiting physicians from prescribing medication over the phone to patients they hadn’t seen in person. The case was put on hold last year while the state legislature pushed the bill through.

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  • Texas Medical Board Adopts New Telemedicine Policy

    Medscape

    The Texas Medical Board (TMB) has issued a new licensing regulation that allows Texas physicians to treat patients via telemedicine without evaluating them in person beforehand. The new rules, which are substantially the same as those the board proposed in September, follow the requirements of a state law passed last spring. Under the new regulation, the board repealed its requirement that physicians conduct an in-person evaluation before writing a prescription. In addition, the new rules say that telemedicine services need not be provided through an established medical site, as the TMB previously required. The regulation also addresses the requirements for meeting the standard of care, documenting telemedicine services, and communicating with patients. In addition, it requires that physicians who provide telemedicine services to Texas residents be licensed in Texas.

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  • Medicaid Telehealth Growth Triggers Billing Concerns

    Bloomberg BNA

    A surge in claims for Medicaid telehealth services has caught the attention of the U.S. government, which plans to investigate whether billing requirements are being met.  Medicaid telehealth providers can look at the inquiry as a positive step, as it indicates telehealth has grown into a viable service meriting government attention, Nathaniel Lacktman, a health-care attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP in Tampa, Fla., told Bloomberg Law Nov. 28.  Telehealth involves receiving medical care from a physician or other practitioner who’s not physically present. Patients can interact with their doctors through phone calls, video chats, or other electronic methods.  

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  • CMS’ Seema Verma Sees Opportunities for Telehealth, Reveals Her Personal Connection to Interoperability

    FierceHealthcare

    Even the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has trouble getting her hands on a family member’s medical record.  During a keynote address at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s annual meeting on Friday that focused largely on the need to reduce the regulatory burden on hospitals and physician practices, CMS Administrator Seema Verma relayed a story about how a lack of interoperability impacted her on a personal level.  In August, Verma’s husband, Sanjay Mishra, M.D., went into cardiac arrest at an airport while traveling with the couple’s two children. After a battery of tests, Mishra was eventually discharged from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Verma asked the hospital for a copy of her husband’s medical records and test results to take back to his doctor in Indiana.  “The room got really quiet and they kind of looked at each other,” she said. “And it was like, ‘We have no idea what to do here.’”  

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  • Why Telemedicine is the Future in Senior Housing

    Senior Housing News

    Debate remains about the terminology, but one thing is certain: telehealth and telemedicine are becoming cornerstones of health care delivery and stand to significantly improve senior care.  A 2016 survey from the National Business Group on Health found that by 2018, 96% of health systems will be using some form of telehealth in their health care delivery. The term “telehealth” is a broad and often misunderstood one, and does not exactly inspire enthusiasm. Yet its sweeping qualities make it an easy concept to understand: it is the use of digital or electronic technologies in the the delivery of health services.  This can mean anything from teleconference doctor appointments to wearing fitness bands, like a Fitbit, that monitor personal behavior to build a health-related dataset.  It’s not surprising, then, that perhaps more than any other demographic, seniors could see the most upside from telehealth’s three key benefits: access, personalization, and quality.  “Fifty percent of hospital readmissions are actually from those over the age of 65,” said moderator Ginna Baik, strategic business development executive at CDW-Healthcare. “It’s becoming not only a pertinent but most important issue inside of health care in general, as well as the continuum of care in senior care.”  

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  • Telemedicine is Still Hindered by Limited Reimbursement

    Modern Healthcare

    Just as part of the Black Friday madness has moved online, so too has part of Black Friday healthcare, as more people, in their Thanksgiving hangovers, seek care virtually. That reflects not only the fact that telehealth use tends to increase right after a holiday but also a broader shift toward digital care across the seasons.  Doctor On Demand, for instance, had a 25% spike above expected volume on Black Friday 2016, and for Avizia, the days after Christmas and Thanksgiving last year were among the busiest all year.  Likewise, "we see a drop on Thanksgiving and a spike on Black Friday," said Mike Putnam, senior vice president of consumer markets for American Well. But, he added, "people in general are becoming much more aware of telehealth, and we're seeing the number of visits grow quite rapidly."  Over the last year, healthcare executives have heralded telemedicine as the solution to rural healthcare woes, a way to treat people in areas hit by natural disasters, and an efficient cost-cutting measure.  

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  • FCC to Consider Rural Telehealth Proposal in December

    Beckers Hospital Review

    Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, released a proposal to increase funding for the agency's Rural Health Care Program Nov. 22 as part of his tentative agenda for the agency's December meeting.  The meeting, scheduled for Dec. 14 and open to the public, will take place at the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. The meeting will consider the proposal — a notice of proposed rulemaking and order called "Promoting Telehealth in Rural America" — among other items on the agenda, such as the controversial proposition to reverse net neutrality rules.  The Rural Health Care Program provides eligible healthcare providers with funding for broadband and telecommunications services that enhance high-quality care. Under the proposal, the FCC would review the program, with an emphasis on assessing an "appropriate budget level" for its services, according to an agency fact sheet accompanying the proposal.  

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  • FCC Eyes Expanded Broadband Funding for Telehealth, Telemedicine

    mHealth Intelligence

    The Federal Communications Commission is considering increasing funding for broadband expansion to rural America, a move that would pave the way for more – and better - telehealth and telemedicine programs where healthcare access is limited.  The FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking late last week to immediately increase the $400 million annual cap on the Rural Health Care Program for FY 2017, and to create a framework for increasing that cap in future years. The proposal will likely be discussed at the FCC’s Dec. 14 meeting.  Congress established the RHC Program in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and set a $400 million cap on RHC’s Telecom Program “to subsidize the difference between urban and rural rates for telecommunications services.” A second part of RHC, the HCF Program, was established in 2012 to allow telecoms to provide a flat 65 percent discount on a variety of communications services “to promote the use of broadband services and facilitate the formation of healthcare provider consortia.”

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  • Telehealth Policy Changes Mean Big Revenue Opportunities for Hospitals

    Healthcare Finance

    Telemedicine is becoming increasingly popular as the financial benefits for providers who offer it come to light. And new policy changes in Washington and around the country are poised to rattle the reimbursement landscape and open big opportunities for hospitals and health systems to drive more revenue from virtual care.  "The U.S. has seen a perfect storm," said Tyto Care CEO Dedi Gilad, whose company offers telemedicine tools. "With alignment of employers pushing for telehealth, you can see telehealth companies provide more and more services, and bringing more availability of services. It's grown very fast and the major area of growth is primary care."  That growth is expected to continue as employers, hospitals and payers realize both cost-savings and new revenue streams for telehealth services. A September study from Nemours Children's Health System examined the use of telemedicine to treat sports injuries, for instance, and found that each visit saves health systems an average of $24 per patient.  That's just one example. And a lot has happened since then to start paving the way for telehealth expansion.  

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  • Medicare and Medicaid Set to Expand Telehealth

    Digital Journal

    The telehealth remote medical practice received a boost recently with a strong indication that the U.S. health schemes Medicare and Medicaid are set to endorse the practice, especially for elements of the population residing out of town.  Medicare and Medicaid are different U.S. government-run programs designed to address the inability of older and low-income Americans to buy private health insurance; both are forms of social insurance programs that share the costs of healthcare among healthy and ill individuals, and affluent and low-income families.  Despite the U.S. being among the ten richest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of $57,293, the government is seeking ways to reduce costs upon the healthcare system and telehealth (or telemedicine) provides a means to do so. Aside from the political dynamic, there is some healthcare efficacy data which suggests that telehealth is at least equivalent to face-to-face meetings with medical staff for some conditions (see for example the research article “Clinical Decision Support System Based Virtual Telemedicine”.) Such studies show how cost-effective in a healthcare organization or system, as well as improving the continuity of care for patients. 

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  • Survey Shows Growing Number of Organizations in Expanding Telemedicine

    MobiHealth News

    The Foley Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey revealed more interest and use of telemedicine amongst health organizations. The survey was conducted by Foley & Lardner LLP, a law firm with a telemedicine team.   In 2014, 87 percent of survey respondents reported that they did not expect most of their patients to be using telemedicine by 2017. However, this year three-quarters of respondents reported that their organization either offers telemedicine options now or plan to offer telemedicine services. Of those, 53 percent said they were looking to expand.   The survey went out to more than 100 senior hospital executives, speciality clinics, ancillary services, and related organizations.  The future of telemedicine could be moving to an international focus, according to the survey results. Currently 22 percent of responders reported offering international telemedicine. That number may soon jump as 32 percent said they are interested in expanding internationally. Of that group, 80 percent said they plan to roll out an international program within the next three years.   

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  • Most of the DOD’s telehealth services are concentrated at 7 facilities, GAO says

    FierceHealthcare

    Since 2015, internal working groups and new legislation have made telehealth expansion a priority for the Department of Defense.  But progress has been relatively slow. Roughly 1% of all active duty service members received telehealth services in 2016, and nearly all of those services were concentrated at seven military treatment centers where leaders have encouraged the use of virtual services, according to a report released by the Government Accountably Office on Tuesday.  “Four of the seven facilities maintain telebehavioral hubs while two of the facilities maintain portals that support a high volume of synchronous and asynchronous encounters among patients across the United States and overseas,” the report stated.  Of the nearly 60,000 telehealth encounters in 2016, most were provided in real time via synchronous video. Among all military branches, mental health was the most common service provided via telehealth. Behavioral health advocates and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., have been particularly outspoken about expanding telehealth access among veterans to improve mental health services.  

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