Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Mobile Health Units Put the Emphasis on Access for mHealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers around the country are taking a literal approach to mobile health these days. They’re customizing RVs, vans, buses and ambulances with telemedicine tools and wireless connectivity to bring healthcare to underserved populations, reduce time to treatment in emergencies and make life easier for schoolchildren and their parents. In Flagstaff, Ariz., a mobile medical unit affectionately called the “Big Orange Bus” is on the road almost every day of the week in this city of 70,000, visiting businesses, schools and homeless shelters and generally serving as a roving resource for North Country HealthCare’s outreach to underserved neighborhoods. 

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  • FCC's Net Neutrality Reversal Threatens Telehealth, Remote Monitoring and Data Sharing

    Fierce Healthcare

    Changes to net neutrality rules will have a significant impact on health IT innovation, particularly for rural providers, according to a group of informatics and public health experts. Under the new leadership of Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to overturn net neutrality rules established by the Obama administration. An overhaul would allow telecommunications companies to treat some businesses more favorably than others and raise connection fees for hospitals. That approach “threatens the well-being of many people, particularly those at risk for health disparities due to low income or rural residency,” a group of researchers from St. Louis University, the Medical University of South Carolina and Harvard University wrote in a post for Health Affairs Blog. 

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  • With New Texas Law, Telemedicine Passes an Important Milestone

    mHealth Intelligence

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s endorsement of new telemedicine regulations means the nation has finally agreed that a physician-patient relationship can be established through a virtual visit. With Abbott’s signature on SB 1107/HB 2697, Texas becomes the last state to allow physicians to connect with new patients via telehealth, rather than having to first meet in person. The action puts to rest a long-simmering debate between telemedicine advocates and healthcare providers over whether the telehealth visit can be treated with the same weight as an in-person visit. The new law also establishes that telemedicine visits have to be held to the same standards of care as in-person visits. 

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  • What Happens to Telemedicine if We Lose Net Neutrality?

    Healthcare DIVE

    The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 on May 18 to review the rules that regulate internet service providers. Over the following 90 days it will collect comments from stakeholders and the public before drafting new rules that would give the ISPs more control over which information got priority on their networks, effectively ending “net neutrality.” So, what happens to telemedicine without this oversight? Rural and underserved communities with fewer choices of ISPs will likely receive diminished care, at slower speeds and higher cost, than patients in more urban, affluent communities according to net neutrality proponents in the healthcare industry. Adding cloud image management provides more value for physicians and patients alike. But how do you know if you're ready to upgrade your PACS? Some provider groups see the situation as more dire. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated, “Establishing a system of paid prioritization is contrary to the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.”

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  • Texas Law Marks Turning Point in Telemedicine

    MedCity News

    Over the weekend, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law, changing the face of telemedicine in the state. With Abbott’s signature on Senate Bill 1107, physicians can now utilize telemedicine services with patients they haven’t met in person. This quashes an earlier requirement that physician-patient relationships had to be established with an in-person visit first. Texas was the last state to still uphold this requirement, according to Politico. Now that it’s abolished, direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies can expand their services across the nation. Though technically, there are still limitations on phone call-based telemedicine in Arkansas and Idaho. This is good news for companies like Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, American Well and MDLive. Teladoc is especially cheering. The telehealth provider has been entwined in a six-year legal battle with the Texas Medical Board regarding the scope of telemedicine in the Lone Star State.

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  • Telehealth Tackles Medicaid’s Challenges with eConsult Program

    mHealth Intelligence

    A first-of-its-kind telehealth program launched in Connecticut two years ago is reducing unnecessary spending, improving care coordination for the hard-to-reach Medicaid population and making primary care doctors more confident in their abilities, simply by using online messaging to determine if specialist referrals are necessary. The eConsult program developed by Community Health Center in 2015 is now being used in some nine states, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, and has spawned a network of similar programs across the country. Its premise is simple: Give doctors an online resource to ask a few questions and perhaps get a little reassurance that they’re doing the right thing. 

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  • USDA Offers Distance Learning, Telemedicine Grant Opportunities

    AAFP

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a call for applications(www.rd.usda.gov) for parties interested in receiving rural telemedicine or distance learning grants. The competitive grants, to be awarded in fiscal year 2017, are made available through the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program,(www.rd.usda.gov) which provides funds to improve telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas. The USDA posted an announcement about the available grants in the May 16 Federal Register.(www.gpo.gov). According to that announcement, eligible applicants -- specifically, incorporated organizations or partnerships; other legal entities, including private for-profit or nonprofit corporations; state and local governments; federally recognized Indian tribes or tribal organizations; and consortia comprising these eligible entities -- have until July 17 to submit applications for competitive grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.

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  • Telemedicine Bill Advances in Senate After Conversion to Study

    News and Record

    Legislative supporters of putting telemedicine on equal footing with other health-care services have agreed to take a one-step-back approach in hopes of gathering more evidence to back their cause. House Bill 283 cleared the Senate Health Care Committee unanimously on Wednesday. It now heads to the Senate committee on Rules and Operations. Demand for telemedicine has grown in recent years, with the service particularly aimed at individuals who live in rural areas and/or who have difficulty getting to a hospital. The bill, with Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) as primary sponsor, was introduced March 8 with the requirement that insurers provide standard coverage and reimbursements for telemedicine and other digital services. The bill would have prohibited insurers from treating telemedicine differently solely because it is not provided as an in-person delivery of service or consultations.

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  • How Two NewYork-Presbyterian Pharmacists Tapped Into Telehealth to Improve Care for Transplant Patients

    FierceHealthcare

    Medication adherence is an important aspect of any patient's care. But the stakes are just a little bit higher when that patient has just undergone an organ transplant. For a transplant patient, missing an antirejection dose isn’t like forgetting your daily cholesterol pill. That’s one reason that two pharmacists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital decided to start seeing patients virtually—an approach that allows them to maintain continuity of care after discharge from the hospital while expanding the hospital's service to patients that would otherwise end up in the emergency department. Nicholas Jandovitz, PharmD, clinical pharmacy manager in the kidney and pancreas transplantation program and Demetra Tsapepas, PharmD, the program’s director of quality and research at the New York City-based hospital, recognized two problems facing all transplant patients: They often needed followup care and medication guidance after they were discharged, but the hospital lacked the clinic space to allow pharmacists to see patients in a designated outpatient setting. 

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  • Congress Considers Multiple Telehealth Bills

    Medscape

    Pressure within Congress to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth and remote monitoring services is approaching critical mass. Multiple bills have recently been introduced with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and a new bipartisan Congressional Telehealth Caucus has been formed in the House. The four members of congress who initiated that caucus — Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif), Gregg Harper (R-Mass), Diane Black (R-Tenn), and Peter Welch (D-Vt) — also on May 19 launched two related pieces of legislation, the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act and the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017. Both bills are being reintroduced from previous sessions of Congress in which they failed to advance.

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  • VT Legislature Approves Telemedicine Reimbursement Bill

    mHealth Intelligence

    Legislation that has been passed by the Vermont House and Senate aims to extend and regulate telemedicine reimbursement within the state. The bill includes new requirements for payers to reimburse telemedicine services, and modifies regulations related to how payers could charge beneficiaries. If Governor Phil Scott (R) signs the legislation, S.50 will come into effect on October 1, 2017 and will apply to Medicaid  and all other health insurance plans. Under the bill, the Department of Vermont Health Access (VHA) must ensure that both the treating clinician and the hosting facility are reimbursed for the services rendered, unless the health care providers at both the host and service sites are employed by the same entity. Along with guaranteeing clinician and facility reimbursement, payers will be required to treat telemedicine as if it were an in-person visit between a beneficiary and a provider. 

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  • Telehealth-friendly CHRONIC Care Act Passes First Senate Hurdle

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill that would boost telehealth services for chronic care treatment is headed to a Senate vote after breezing through a committee review this week. The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017 (S.870), sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), also got some good news from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO gave the bill a favorable score in its preliminary cost estimate, saying it would neither add to nor decrease Medicare spending over the next decade. The CHRONIC Care Act targets Medicare payment reform, a popular catchphrase in Washington D.C. these days. Its goal is to push Medicare costs down by improvement chronic disease management services and care coordination at home. 

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  • Telehealth Partnerships Focus on Innovative ROI in Upstate NY

    mHealth Intelligence

    For the two administrators responsible for guiding new telehealth projects to fruition across upstate New York, ROI doesn’t always mean reimbursement. Sometimes a new telemedicine program has to look beyond money for value. “You need to find partnerships,” says David Johnson, telehealth network program coordinator for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization. “And then you get them thinking about different forms of ROI. Oftentimes it’s the death of a project … when you bring up reimbursement.” Johnson and Katy Cook, telemedicine project coordinator for the Adirondack Health Institute, oversee some 33 active telehealth and telemedicine projects in the North Country Telehealth Partnership, covering a vast, 11-county expanse of New York that’s home to some of the most remote and underserved regions east of the Mississippi. Johnson and Cook will be talking about their challenges and successes at the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center’s regional conference next week. “Taking Telehealth Mainstream” will take place May 23 and 24 at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Andrew Solomon, the NETRC’s project manager, says the work down by Johnson and Cook is an example of how partnerships are springing up around the country to improve healthcare services and access where providers and funding are in short supply. The NETRC is part of the national Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, which consists of 12 regional and two national centers. 

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  • Providers Rally Around Medicare Bill Expanding Telehealth Services

    HealthData Management

    Now is an optimal time to update Medicare policies by taking full advantage of telehealth technologies and lifting the restrictions on reimbursement that are holding back access to care for patients with chronic conditions. That was the overriding message from providers who testified on Tuesday during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Medicare policies that can improve care for patients with chronic diseases. Specifically, witnesses voiced their support for a bipartisan Senate bill—the CHRONIC Care Act of 2017—designed to help Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions by, among other provisions, expanding access to telehealth services.

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  • Texas, The Last Frontier For Telehealth, Opens For Business

    Forbes

    The ability of telehealth companies to do business in Texas--the last major U.S. market stymieing the growth of video doctor consultations--cleared a key hurdle when a bill widening patient access cleared that state’s House of Representatives. The legislation opens a market of 28 million people to telehealth companies like American Well, MDLive and Teladoc, which have already been benefiting from expanding commercial coverage and employer health benefits administered and offered by large insurers like Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group and most Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. The passage in the Texas House last week is the latest legislative momentum for telehealth, which offers access to physicians and patients via smartphone, tablet or computer. Employers and private insurers are already embracing the trend as a way to make healthcare more convenient and avoid costly and unnecessary trips to the emergency room or a more expensive physician’s office.

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