Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • How NASA Uses Telemedicine to Care for Astronauts in Space

    Harvard Business Review

    Since the Expedition One launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001 — the first long-duration stay on the orbital construction site — NASA’s Human Health and Performance team has been developing expertise in the planning and provision of medical support to crews staying in our world’s most remote environment. Four times each year, we launch a new team of astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS, where they will stay for six months to one year, performing engineering tasks, research, maintenance, and upgrades to prepare for future commercial vehicles. During this amount of time, access to medical care is crucial, as altered routines and microgravity have deconditioning effects on crew members’ bone and muscle, fluid distribution, and immune function.  Telemedicine is a key component of medical care on ISS. While doctors have always communicated with the crews of short missions, largely to guide them through acute spaceflight-specific health issues, today’s long-duration and exploration missions require space medicine to fulfill a much wider-ranging mandate and extend beyond minor illness and urgent care. Telemedicine enables preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic care during many months in space, and ideally allows for seamless continuity of care before and after missions. But our experience shows that achieving this requires planning and training prior to launch, as well as good communication and rapid learning in space. These factors are important for realizing the potential of telemedicine to improve care in other remote, extreme, or otherwise resource-constrained environments. 

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  • New Virginia Telehealth Law Benefits Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

    The National Law Review

    After July 1, 2017, optometrists and ophthalmologists (“Ophthalmic Providers”) in Virginia will be able to practice through telehealth. Va. Code § 54.1-2400.01:2 permits Ophthalmic Providers to establish a bona fide provider-patient relationship “by an examination through face-to-face interactive, two-way, real-time communication” or through “store-and-forward technologies.” Licensed Ophthalmic Providers may establish a provider-patient relationship so long as the provider conforms to the in-person standard of care.  To the extent that an Ophthalmic Provider actually writes a prescription, the Ophthalmic Provider must also obtain an updated patient medical history and make a diagnosis at the time of prescribing.  However, like most telehealth laws in other states, the Virginia law prohibits issuing a prescription solely by use of an online questionnaire.

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  • Virtual Care Can Turn Solving the Access Challenge From Impossible to Possible Mission

    Healthcare IT News

    Currently, the typical patient waits 29 days to see a physician, according to a recently released survey from Merritt Hawkins. And, it could get worse. The country is expected to experience a shortage of about 90,000 physicians by the year 2025, according to the American Academy of Medical Colleges.  As a result, patients are apt to seek primary care for minor ailments such as a cold of flu through emergency departments – or to simply go without any treatment whatsoever.  Delivering care under such conditions could become virtually impossible.  “Access is a huge problem in American healthcare,” said Sylvan Waller, MD, a physician executive. Waller served as one of the catalysts during The Health Innovation Think Tank:  A Collaboration of Global Health Industry Thought Leaders, an event that was co-hosted by Lenovo Health, Justin Barnes Advisors, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center/Critical Care Medicine , Inventiv Health and HIMSS Media. 

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  • Telemedicine Creates Savings for Patients Who Don't Have to Transfer to Bigger ER

    The Daily Yonder; keep it rural

    Rural hospitals may not save money when they treat an emergency-room patient via tele-medicine instead of transferring them to a larger facility, but patients do, according a new report.  Previous studies haven’t reached a clear conclusion about whether avoiding transfer of an ER patient saves the hospital money. But by expanding the focus to include consumer spending related to transport, researchers found that significant savings do occur, the study says.
    The study tracked not just the cost of treatment but the financial burden caused by transportation expenses, loss of work time for family and friends, and similar indirect expenses. Using tele-medicine added an average of $1,700 per patient to treatment costs. But consumers saved about $5,600 in direct and indirect expenses, the study states. The net “societal gain” is about $3,800 per patient who is not transferred.  “Our study’s primary goal was to identify the amount of money saved in situations when remote emergency medicine professionals can provide the necessary insight to help local providers avoid transfer of the patient,” said Nabil Natafgi, research associate and adjunct assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and study co-author. “The cost savings is significant and should help more rural health systems recognize the financial and non-financial value of telemedicine.”  

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  • Emocha Mobile Health Expands to Opioid Addiction Treatment

    The Baltimore Sun

    Emocha Mobile Health, a Baltimore-based health technology startup, is expanding its mobile application that helps people takes their medications as prescribed to opioid addiction treatment with a $1.7 million federal grant and $1 million in private funding. With the Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health, emocha will work with the University of Washington in Seattle and Boston Medical Center to test the effectiveness of its technology for keeping people who have been prescribed take-home buprenorphine on their medication schedule. Buprenorphine is an alternative to methadone that is commonly used to treat people who are addicted to heroin or other opioids. At the same time, emocha is pressing into the commercial addiction treatment market with the $1 million influx of cash from private investors and partnerships with treatment clinics. 

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  • Texas Telemedicine Law Prompts Feds to Close Medical Board Probe

    mHealth Intelligence

    Federal officials have closed their investigation of the Texas Medical Board over charges the board sought to unfairly restrict telemedicine providers. The Federal Trade Commission voted 2-0 to end its probe shortly after Gov. Greg Abbot signed sweeping new telemedicine regulations into law. The new law included a provision allowing doctors to establish a doctor-patient relationship through telehealth, rather than in person, and made Texas the last state to drop the in-person requirement for first-time visits between a doctor and patient. The legislation, SB 1107/HB 2697, culminated roughly a year of negotiations between supporters and critics of telemedicine over how healthcare providers should be allowed to use the technology. In a letter issued June 21, Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen said the board was ending its probe because the new law expands access to telehealth and telemedicine in the Lone Star State while addressing anti-competitive issues raised by the TMB’s efforts to curb digital health services.

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  • Pennsylvania Legislature Introduces Telemedicine Reimbursement Bill

    mHealth Intelligence

    Pennsylvania has opened the door to becoming the next state to allow full telemedicine reimbursement parity for care services. Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) introduced Senate Bill 780 to define key components of telemedicine, set telemedicine licensing requirements and require that healthcare payers provide reimbursement for telemedicine services if they pay for the same service in person. Along with the Senate bill is a House companion making the rounds among state legislators. The bill would also ensure reimbursement for telehealth services under "ancillary service plans."  These are individual or group health insurance plans, subscriber contracts or certificates that provide exclusive coverage for dental services or vision services. Healthcare services purchased through ancillary plans cannot be excluded from coverage just because they were performed via telemedicine.

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  • Senator Vogel Continues Push for Telemedicine Initiatives in Pennsylvania

    EllwoodCity.org

    Technology can help overcome the barriers to quality patient care created by distance and reduce the costs of those services, according to Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), the author of legislation aimed at promoting telemedicine in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 780 specifically defines telemedicine as “the delivery of health care services provided through telecommunications technology to a patient by a healthcare practitioner who is at a different location.” It also establishes guidelines regarding who can provide telemedicine services, and provides clarity regarding insurance company reimbursement for those services. “Telemedicine is transforming healthcare and it is something our state should embrace and encourage,” Senator Vogel said. “Through the use of telemedicine, specialists and other health care providers are able to expand their reach, helping patients stay in their communities and avoid traveling long distances for specialized care. That will not only save costs, but it could save lives as well. 

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  • New Jersey’s Telemedicine Regulations are Ready to Become Law

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telemedicine legislation headed to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s desk would, among other things, enable physicians to use telehealth to establish a doctor-patient relationship, ensure the same standards of care as an in-person visit, and ensure coverage and payment parity for private payers, state Medicaid and some other health plans. New Jersey’s State Senate approved S.291 last Thursday by a 38-0 vote, just hours after the State Assembly passed A.1464 by a vote of 73-0. The unanimous votes conclude more than a year of back-and-forth negotiations to set standards for the fast-growing technology. "The benefits to telemedicine are enormous," State Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), the leader of a six-legislator group sponsoring the Assembly bill, said in a statement. "It will make it quicker and easier to access treatment, drive up practices, lower costs and, most importantly, make sure patients get the treatment they need, when they need it, to improve their long-term health."

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  • Senators Introduce Bill to Expand Rural Telehealth Services

    Healthcare Informatics

    U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand access to rural telehealth services. The bill would allow non-rural hospitals serving rural areas to qualify for support from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF). The “Reaching Underserved Rural Areas to Lead on Telehealth Act (RURAL),” S. 1377, would update existing law to allow non-rural members of telehealth consortia to qualify for the 65 percent health-care provider broadband connectivity discount under the HCF as long as a majority of the locations within a group are serving patients in rural areas, according to a press release from Sen. Wicker’s office. “Telehealth services are critical to increasing rural Americans’ access to quality care,” Senator Wicker said in a statement. “Mississippi is leading the nation in developing telehealth technology. Our health-care providers have demonstrated that targeted investments in telehealth can increase access to life-saving services and drive down costs.” “Our bill will give telehealth service providers better incentives to serve more rural areas,” Senator Schatz said in a prepared statement. “Ultimately, that is good news for anyone who cares about expanding access to health care in Hawai‘i and other rural areas across the country.” 

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  • UVA Cites Success with Telemedicine, Telestroke in Rural Care

    Through the use of telemedicine and telestroke in rural care, the University of Virginia (UVA) reduced 30-day hospital readmission rates by 40 percent for patients with heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, stroke, and joint replacement. In a subcommittee hearing by the U.S Senate on FCC’s Universal Broadband Fund and Rural Healthcare (RHC) Program, Dr. Karen Rheuban, Medical Director for the Office of Telemedicine and Director for the Center for Telehealth at UVA presented a testimony that addressed the critical importance of enhancing the RHC program. Much of Rheuban’s testimony cited the many challenges telemedicine curbed within rural Virginia, such as easing the stress in overburned health facilities and reducing the barriers remote communities face in receiving proper healthcare.

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  • Telepsychiatry Opens a New Window into Behavioral Healthcare

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telepsychiatry is one of the fastest-growing platforms in the telemedicine space these days, due in large part to improvements in video-conferencing technology. Mental healthcare is described as the one medical field in which the doctor doesn’t have to lay hands on a patient, which means that psychiatrists, psychologists and behavioral and mental health counselors can get more out of a digital health session than an in-person visit compared to other disciplines. “Nowadays we can easily, across a screen, look face-to-face with somebody,” says John Sharp, chief behavioral health officer for MDLive. “We can do what we normally would do in an office … but then we can also see how that person lives.”   “You can actually get into their environment” with an online platform, adds Zereana Jess-Huff, American Well’s vice president of behavioral health. “More than any other use case, this makes psychology an ideal [platform for] telehealth.” 

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  • The Changing Telehealth Landscape

    Lexology

    When healthcare providers and information technology (IT) appear together in the news, it is often for less than positive reasons. The cyber security issues that have plagued everyone have not left physicians and hospitals unscathed; ransomware has held health systems large and small hostage; and laws such as HIPAA and HITECH have imposed considerable liabilities on providers. Concern about cyber security and the complexities inherent in IT matters is not misplaced. In a 12-day span in April, two separate HIPAA settlements handed down by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) directly involved IT issues--one, a phishing incident, led to a $400,000 settlement, and the other, which involved a stolen laptop and a lack of safeguards for electronic PHI on mobile devices, led to a $2.5 million settlement. Clearly, the presence of HIPAA and HITECH, combined with the prevalence of cyber security issues, creates a perilous IT landscape for providers.

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  • New Jersey’s Telemedicine Legislation Faces a New Controversy

    mHealth Intelligence

    New Jersey’s landmark telemedicine legislation could be running into a roadblock. The New Jersey General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee has amended Assembly Bill 1464 to limit to three years the provision that telemedicine be an accepted means of establishing the doctor-patient relationship.  After that, the legislation would require physicians and their new patient to first meet in person before moving to a telehealth platform. The change was pushed by physicians’ groups who fear telemedicine – especially large telemedicine companies from out-of-state – will hurt solo physicians and small practices. That amendment caught the eye of the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), a national association that advocates exclusively for large employers on health, retirement and compensation public policies. The committee had presented written testimony in favor of the bill prior to a June 12 public hearing, but withdrew its support on June 16 after reviewing the amended bill.

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  • Massachusetts Invests $250K in Digital Health Innovation

    mHealth Intelligence

    The Baker-Polito Administration of MA is offering a sum of $250,000 to support designated Digital Health Innovation Labs within the state. This is the second investment the governor's office has made as part of the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative (DHI), which is used to support two digital health incubators in the state. Of the total, $170,000 will go to the PULSE@ MassChallenge hub in Boston while the remaining $80,000 will support Baystate Health’s TechSpring technology innovation center in Springfield.The new awards are part of the state’s digital health Marketplace Program, which is an effort to build stronger ties between the region’s digital health innovators and healthcare customers. “Both of these organizations are having real impacts when it comes to growing the digital health sectors in Eastern and Western Massachusetts,” said MA Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “We’re excited not only for the economic potential that these digital health startups hold for Massachusetts, but also the potential of their innovations to impact patients around the globe.” 

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