Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • The Growth of Iowa Telemedicine

    Iowa Public Radio

    Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services including using new technologies like video streaming. This method has been growing in use in recent years, and the topic was the subject of a panel discussion earlier this month at the Iowa Ideas Conference in Cedar Rapids. It was moderated by River to River host Ben Kieffer.  Panelists include Dr. Tim Sagers of Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Dr. Tim Blair of Van Buren County Hospital, Dr. Nicholas Mohr of the University of Iowa, and Kate Klefsad and Eric Einwalter of University of Iowa Health Care.   Sagers says that, "anybody that's living in modern healthcare that doesn't think this becomes a big piece of how we deliver care has their head in the sand."  The panel discusses the challenges in delivery and reimbursement, as well as some hopes for the future of telemedicine. 

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  • Telehealth Bills Get Senate Approval, Good News From CBO

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill to boost telehealth coverage in Medicare Advantage plans would reduce healthcare expenditures by $80 million over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  The CBO’s cost estimate of H.R. 3727 is welcome news for telehealth advocates looking to cut into Medicare’s coverage and reimbursement restrictions and make telehealth and telemedicine and more accepted standard of care. But at the same time, the fate of this and close to a dozen other telehealth-flavored bills rests on a deeply divided Congress that hasn’t had much success passing any legislation of note lately.  The CBO estimate came on the same day that the Senate unanimously passed a much larger telehealth bill, the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017.  S. 870, which aims to push Medicare costs down by improving chronic disease management services and care coordination at home, also received a positive CBO review. But experts say the bill has little chance of making it through the House.

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  • MedPAC Discusses Medicare Payments for Telehealth Services and Utilization Trends

    The National Law Review

    Pursuant to the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, Congress mandated the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (“MedPAC”) to provide a report to Congress by March 15, 2018, in which MedPAC has been asked to answer the following questions:  Under the Medicare Fee-for-Service program (Parts A and B), what is the current coverage of telehealth services?  Currently, what coverage do commercial health plans offer for telehealth services?  In what ways can the Medicare Fee-for-Service program adopt some or all the telehealth service coverage presently found in commercial health plans?  Earlier this month, at the MedPAC public meeting, the Commission presented a general summary regarding the first of these three questions, specifically the Medicare Fee-for-Service program’s current coverage of telehealth services. MedPAC examined four different aspects of the Medicare Fee-for-Service program that currently address coverage of telehealth services: (1) the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule; (2) other Fee-for-Service payment models within the Medicare program (e.g., inpatient / outpatient hospital services); (3) the Medicare Advantage program; and (4) the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation initiatives.

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  • The Way Forward for Telemedicine

    The National Law Review

    A lot of us have argued that one of the floodgates for telemedicine has been reimbursement. If states and the Federal government more liberally reimbursed or required reimbursement for telemedicine service, we argue then a significant barrier to broader telemedicine will be removed. This is a valid argument, and the potential flurry of activity on Capitol Hill as of this writing (September 20, 2017) gives many hope that Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine may be greatly expanded soon.  Alas, another problem persists. A spate of recent surveys and reports on utilization demonstrate that awareness should be viewed as a similar sort of barrier. It is, of course, a generalization to say this, but consumers are largely unaware of the benefit being made available to them, or are unaware of the appropriate uses of a telemedicine service. 

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  • Leveraging Primary Care Telehealth for Convenience and Quality

    mHealth Intelligence

    At its heart, the telehealth or telemedicine platform is all about connecting the patient to the doctor for primary care services. That’s where it all began: a virtual connection to treat a nagging cough or cold, a sinus infection or earache – a minor ailment that would otherwise take a chunk of valuable time away from work or school for a visit to the doctor’s office or hospital. But with digital health technology, that task can be handled quickly and efficiently online, in a fraction of the time and at much less cost to both patient and provider.  That makes it an important tool for delivering both urgent and primary care.

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  • MedPAC Debates Expansion of Telehealth Payment

    AAFP

    Expanding Medicare payment for telehealth services could increase access for patients, but it could also contribute to a spike in medical claims without measurable patient improvement.  That was the core debate(medpac.gov) that members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) had during their most recent meeting Sept. 7-8. The commission is required to submit a comprehensive report to Congress detailing telehealth services covered by Medicare and private plans by March 2018. In preparation, its members discussed whether payment for these services could be expanded efficiently.  Medicare is more limited in how it can pay for telehealth services compared to other payers, including Medicare Advantage, private plans and pilot programs managed by CMS. Most health plans from Medicaid, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs cover telehealth, and 34 states have passed laws that require insurers to pay for telehealth visits in the same manner as they pay for office visits.   

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  • New Telemedicine Initiative Gives Rural Nevadans Access to Specialty Care

    Las Vegas Review Journal

    Visiting the doctor just got faster, easier and more useful in parts of rural Nevada.  hat’s because of the Nevada Broadband Telemedicine Initiative, announced Monday at Desert View Regional Medical Center in Nye County.  The $19.6 million federally funded initiative aims to increase access to specialty care, including psychiatric services, to residents in rural areas of the state. That is a big step forward from other online telemedicine tools, which are best suited for diagnosing coldlike symptoms.  The state’s newest tool, currently available at 14 Nevada hospitals along the Interstate 95 and 80 and U.S. Highway 50 corridors, is intended to help close the rural-urban health-care gap that is largely blamed on a statewide shortage of doctors.  “That’s huge for patient care,” said Susan Davila, CEO of Desert View, one of the participating locations. “It’s our dream and want for our patients to be able to stay in the community.”  Thanks to high-speed internet service and new technology, rural hospitals now can quickly connect patients to a specialist in Las Vegas or Reno, saving them long drives.  

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  • Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Spotlight Value of Telehealth as New House Bill Gains Ground

    Healthcare IT News

    As Houston was inundated and Key West was thrashed with 130-mph winds, several vendors and providers offered free telehealth services to residents displaced by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Doctor On Demand and EpicMD both made their services available to regions of Texas and Florida for a limited time, as did LiveHealth Online, which offers video-based consultations physicians and psychologists. Delaware-based Nemours, which operates pediatric specialty clinics in Florida, offered free remote consults to children affected by Irma. A lot of people took advantage of those opportunities. For instance, nearly 3,000 people over three days availed themselves of a telehealth program offered for free by another area provider, Florida Hospital, according to the Orlando Sentinel. And at Nemours, downloads of its CareConnect telemed app increased by more than 550 percent. 

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  • HIT Coalition Pushes CMS to Revamp Telehealth Policies

    HealthData Management

    Health IT Now, a coalition of patient groups, providers, employers and insurers, in large part agrees with new IT policies included in a recently issued proposed rule making changes to payment policies under the physician fee schedule for Calendar Year 2018.  However, the organization also has some serious concerns, particularly regarding telehealth policy, which it detailed in a comment letter sent to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  The group sees the IT measures as fostering improved patient safety and outcomes by giving providers, patients and caregivers tools that will better enable them to manage health and wellness.  For example, the coalition strongly backs proposed additions to covered telehealth services and is encouraging CMS to go further by offering Medicare reimbursement for physical, occupational and speech-language therapy, while also adding diabetes educators to the list of providers eligible to bill for telehealth services.  

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  • Texas Medical Board Releases Telemedicine Rules

    Modern Healthcare

    The Texas Medical Board on Friday released revised rules that adjust how telemedicine providers in the state—the last large market without rules to regulate video doctor consultations—are allowed to treat patients. The proposed rules do away with the provisions that a "patient site presenter" must be available for patients being treated for new conditions at medical sites and that offsite, providers see patients in the flesh before providing for them remotely. Instead, the rules stipulate that a health professional "must establish a practitioner-patient relationship," but they do not specify how such a relationship be formed, opening up the possibility for such a relationship to be completely virtual. These changes are in line with the state law passed in May that allows providers to care for patients virtually without having in-person meetings first—a response to an issue that first arose prominently when the Texas Medical Board told Teladoc in 2011 that it couldn't provide telemedicine services without preliminary in-person visits. The new rules could affect up to 28 million patients in the state, about 3 million of whom live in rural areas.

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  • Telemedicine Saves Patients Time and Money, Study Shows

    Fierce Healthcare

    A new study adds to mounting evidence that telemedicine can save patients two things they value most: time and money.  Patients and family members saved an average of $50 in travel costs and recouped just under an hour in time by using telehealth technology for sports medicine appointments, according to a study by Nemours Children’s Health System presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference.  The health system saw some moderate savings as well. The telehealth appointments cost approximately $24 less per patient.  “We know that telemedicine is often looked to for common childhood ailments, like cold and flu, or skin rashes. But we wanted to look at how telemedicine could benefit patients within a particular specialty such as sports medicine,” Alfred Atanda Jr., MD., an orthopedic surgeon at Nemours that led the study said in a release.

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  • Telehealth Bills Targeting Stroke Care, MA Plans Show Progress

    mHealth Intelligence

    Two bills designed to improve telehealth and telemedicine access sailed through Congressional subcommittee reviews on Wednesday. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved H.R. 1148, the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act, sending it on to the full committee for review. Meanwhile, the House Committee on Ways and Means unanimously approved H.R. 3727, the Increasing Telehealth Access in Medicare Act, which seeks to integrate telehealth into Medicare Advantage plans by 2020.  The FAST Act, introduced in February by U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), would allow hospitals and mobile stroke units to qualify as an eligible site for “telehealth-eligible stroke services” under Medicare.  A companion bill in the Senate, S. 431, introduced in January by Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), would allow any site exclusively administering acute care stroke treatment to be included in the list of eligible Medicare sites, regardless of geographic location. That bill currently sits before the Senate Finance Committee.  “This critical bill would make a world of difference for stroke survivors facing barriers to telestroke services,” former American Heart Association President Steven Houser, PhD, said in a February press release announcing the House version of the bill.  

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  • More Organizations Urge CMS to Boost Medicare Telehealth Coverage

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare organizations and advocacy groups are ganging up on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in a bid to compel more telehealth and telemedicine coverage. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), American Medical Association (AMA), American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) and Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) all called on CMS to go beyond current proposals to amend the Medicare 2018 physician fee schedule and open the doors to more connected care services. “HIMSS encourages CMS to embrace a reimbursement system that recognizes the unique characteristics of connected health that enhances the care experience for the patient, providers and caregivers,” outgoing HIMSS President and CEO H. Stephen Lieber and Denise W. Hines, chair of the HIMSS North America Board of Directors and CEO of the eHealth Services Group, wrote.  The organizations all submitted comments by the Sept. 11 deadline to a wide range of CMS proposals, including plans to add seven new telehealth-friendly CPT codes for Medicare reimbursement and scale back the bundled payment program for remote patient monitoring. 

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  • PCORI Eyes mHealth, Telehealth Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

    mHealth Intelligence

    Three projects to test mHealth and telehealth platforms in the treatment of multiple sclerosis are slated to get more than $14 million in grant funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The studies are part of a five-program, $38 million effort by the Washington DC-based independent non-profit to tackle a progressive – and unpredictable – neurological disease that affects some 400,000 Americans and 2.3 million globally and costs millions of dollars annually in the US for treatment. The University of Michigan will be receiving $3.5 million for a project that will use a wrist-borne sensor to measure the effects of two different treatments for fatigue: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered by phone and the wakefulness-promoting drug modafinil.

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  • Congress Mulls Proposal to Boost Telehealth Coverage in MA Plans

    m

    The latest telehealth bill surfacing in Washington DC targets Medicare Advantage plans. H.R. 3727, introduced on Sept. 11 by US Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif..) and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), would enable MA plans to reimburse for telehealth services at comparable rates to in-person services beginning in 2020. MA plans, also called Part C plans, are offered by private payers approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These plans currently offer telehealth as a supplemental benefit, with members electing to pay with higher premiums, additional co-pays or through plan rebates. The bill also calls for Medicare coverage in chronic care management plans, beginning in 2019, of “services furnished through the use of secure messaging, Internet, store and forward technologies or other non-face-to-face communication methods determined appropriate by the [Health and Human Services] Secretary.” It also calls for access parity for telehealth services between Medicare part A and B programs and those in Medicare Advantage.  

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