Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Intermountain Turns to Telehealth to Better Manage Antibiotics

    Modern Healthcare

    Healthcare organizations are using telecommunication technology in many innovative ways to help reach goals. The latest involves a tool that allows some rural hospitals to curb excessive or improper use of antibiotics—a common problem across the healthcare industry. Intermountain Healthcare, which has 21 hospitals, allows patients at four of its smaller hospitals to consult with infectious disease specialists through video and phone conferencing. The program also provides antibiotic stewardship program support to participating hospitals' staff members. The system has nearly a dozen small hospitals across Utah and Idaho—many of which lack access to a physician specializing in infectious disease. Only one has a formal antibiotic stewardship program, as the newly required Joint Commission programs are called, according to a blog post by Dr. Edward Stenehjem, an infectious disease expert at the system's flagship, Intermountain Medical Center, in Murray, a Salt Lake City suburb. According to a report published this summer in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, just 39% of more than 4,100 hospitals surveyed had a fully developed antibiotic stewardship program. The Intermountain program was conceived as a service for inpatients and their physicians – either hospitalists in the larger hospitals or primary care physicians in the smaller ones, but it’s “bled over” into ambulatory care, Stenehjem said. Physicians requesting a consult with a specialist call an 800 number, which emails a consult request to the receiving specialist, who typically returns the phone call in 10 to 20 minutes.  

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  • Michigan Telehealth Law Requires Patient Consent Prior To Services

    Health IT Outcomes

    Michigan lawmakers have unanimously passed a bill requiring physicians “consult with a patient or obtain the patient’s consent” prior to providing telehealth services, according to mHealth Intelligence. The bill, S.B. 753, now heads to Governor Rick Snyder’s office for approval and will take effect 90 days after it is signed into law. One of critics biggest concerns of the rise of telehealth services has been it undermines the traditional doctor-patient relationship and lowers the quality of care for patients. This bill is one step toward ensuring standards are not relaxed for patients receiving remote care. S.B. 753 was introduced last February by State Senator Peter MacGregor, who said, “This is a commonsense healthcare reform for a modern age. Society has never been more connected, yet a patient’s ability to see a medical professional is becoming more and more constrained as hospital wait times grow. This bill would help improve access to care, which could lead to healthier patient outcomes. “Telehealth could transform healthcare in Michigan. It allows healthcare professionals to extend their reach beyond a corner office to meet patients where they are. It enhances access to and use of healthcare in our state, reduces costs encourages competition and, most importantly, could lead to healthier lives.” The bill was supported by a number of groups including the Michigan Association of Health Plans, the Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Spectrum Health, and Ascension Michigan.

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  • A Doctor Appointment on Video: Telemedicine Comes to Michiana

    South Bend Tribune

    Modern medicine is about to become more modern — and more convenient — for many Michiana patients, thanks to telemedicine. Today, South Bend-based Beacon Health System launches its live, secure video visits program to meet urgent care needs of patients with minor symptoms and ailments. With a cost of $49 without insurance — a fraction of the cost of a face-to-face urgent care center visit, consumers can get medical attention for certain illnesses without traveling, spending time in a waiting room, or taking time off work. All that would be needed is a computer (smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop) with a camera, and an internet connection. Android and Apple smartphone users will need to download a free app from either Google Play or the Apple Store. Laptop, tablet and desktop users will visit www.beaconhealthsystem.org/connect. Patients can then be walked through the experience online. Beacon will have physicians, licensed in Indiana and Michigan, available 24/7 for this new service. Among the numerous medical problems appropriate for a video visit are cold and flu symptoms, eye infections, urinary tract infections, minor sprains, and low back pain. The doctor determines whether in-person medical appointment is needed instead. If necessary during the video visit, the doctor can prescribe medication — non-controlled substances — and have the prescription sent to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice. 

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  • President Obama Signs Schatz-Hatch Tele-Training Bill Into Law

    Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) Press Release

    President Barack Obama signed into law the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). This law will increase access to high-quality health care in hard-to-reach regions. “Technology has the potential to transform the way we train doctors and deliver health care,” said Senator Schatz. “This law will help connect primary care providers in underserved areas with specialists at academic hubs, making it easier for medical professionals to access the continuing education they need to provide high-quality health care to more people.” Although nearly one-fourth of the population lives in rural areas, only about 10 percent of physicians practice in these hard-to-reach regions. People living in rural areas have higher rates of some chronic diseases and many face high transportation costs when they need to visit a doctor. The ECHO model is an innovative continuing medical education program that uses interactive videoconferencing to link specialist teams with primary care providers in rural and underserved areas.

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  • 21st Century Cures Act a Boon to Telehealth, Experts Say

    Healthcare IT News

    The 21st Century Cures Act, enacted this week, gained attention by allocating $6.3 billion for electronic health records, precision medicine, mental health and to fight opioid abuse. Yet a less-publicized provision in the nearly 1,000 pages of legislation promises to have a significant impact by increasing access of Medicare beneficiaries to telehealth services. The legislation requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to report to Congress on the current and potential uses of telehealth in the Medicare program and to assist Congress in its ongoing assessment of Medicare coverage of telehealth services. Specifically, the Act puts a focus on the “originating site” requirement for telehealth usage under Medicare. Under current rules, the originating site where the patient is located at the time of the telehealth encounter must be a certain type of healthcare facility, located in a rural area. 

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  • Defense Bill Expands Telehealth Services in TRICARE

    mHealth Intelligence

    A Defense bill that includes expanded telehealth access for active duty military personnel and veterans has been approved by Congress – minus controversial language that would have basically federalized telehealth doctors. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, which makes telehealth services available under the U.S. Defense Department’s TRICARE program, sailed through both the House and Senate after the controversial language in the Senate bill was stripped out. The initial Senate bill had mandated that the originating site for telehealth services – defined for such issues as licensure, reimbursement and liability – would be the physician’s location, rather than that of the patient. That drew the ire of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association and several pro-telehealth groups, who pointed out that such a law would enable physicians treating military personnel and veterans to skip state licensing laws when treating patients via telehealth. AAFP Board Chairman Robert L. Wergin, MD, had said the Senate version of the bill “portends a troubling scenario under which state licensing boards will lack the authority to discipline physicians who are practicing medicine within that state’s borders.” 

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  • Bill to Expand Telehealth in TRICARE Preserves State Licensure

    American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

    A bill passed by the House and Senate to expand telehealth services for active duty and retired military personnel and their families will maintain safeguards on state medical licensure, as the AAFP and other health organizations had called for. Because increasing access to care for veterans and their families is a priority for legislators, they added new telehealth benefits to the TRICARE program in the National Defense Authorization Act,(www.congress.gov) the annual spending authorization bill for the Defense Department. The final bill calls for telehealth services to be treated as if they were provided in a face-to-face office visit and without cost-sharing in the form of deductibles or copayments. Medical professionals can seek reimbursement for telehealth services for health evaluations, diagnosis, treatment supervision and monitoring of outcomes. The AAFP lent its support to the measure as long as it preserved state medical licensing laws. In the initial Senate version of the bill, telehealth services were considered to be only those furnished at the physician's location -- not the patient's -- for purposes such as licensure, payment and liability. Legislators agreed to remove that language from the final version at the urging of the AAFP and others. 

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  • Telemedicine for PTSD No Less Effective Than In-Person Therapy

    Fox News Health

    Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have difficulties making it to in-person therapy sessions may be able to get treatment that's just as good by videoconference. Researchers compared home-delivered prolonged exposure therapy - which helps patients confront memories and situations that trigger their symptoms - to the same treatment given in U.S. Veterans Affairs clinics, and found no difference in effectiveness. "The best treatment for PTSD, with the most empirical support, can be delivered at no loss of effectiveness, directly into a veteran's home, rather than having the veteran come into clinic," lead study author Ron Acierno told Reuters Health by email. "We can now save the travel time and bring the treatment right to them" if a veteran lives too far away to attend 12 to 15 weekly sessions, can't take off work or feels stigmatized coming into the clinic, said Acierno, a psychologist and researcher with the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

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  • Text Messaging Program Offers an mHealth Nudge to Busy Parents

    mHealth Intelligence

    A text messaging program is boosting engagement for a Minnesota health system’s youngest patients simply by reminding their parents to schedule well-child visits. More than 70 percent of the parents contacted by the Park Nicollet Health System have scheduled visits since the Minneapolis-based provider launched the mHealth messaging program in January. The program focuses on parents with children up to the age of 3. “We were noticing gaps in care with the pediatric well-child visits,” says Ali Salita, Park Nicollet’s project manager for clinical health support.  “There are so many recommended well-child visits in a short period of time, and many parents are not familiar with the well child standards and the importance of these frequent visits. It’s easy for parent to miss an interval – and subsequently miss valuable screenings, immunizations and provider education on growth and development.”
    “(R)eminding parents to schedule their children’s well-child visits has many benefits,” she says, noting the health system is working toward a standard of six visits within the first 15 months. “It helps prevent missed visits and gaps in care for the children. And it provides an opportunity to improve immunization rates in the state. Children receive most of their  immunizations during well-child visits.” 

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  • Health in Vulnerable Populations

    Federal Telemedicine News

    The American Hospital Association’s (AHA) www.aha.org “Task Force for Ensuring Access to Vulnerable Communities”, recently released a report outlining a menu of options for communities, hospitals, and policymakers to ensure that vulnerable rural and urban communities have access to essential healthcare services. The report discusses in detail the need for virtual care strategies to be used to help vulnerable communities. These communities are dealing with declining and aging populations, the need to provide additional access to primary care services, high rates for the uninsured or underinsured, cultural differences resulting in low education, plus dealing with environmental challenges that may hinder caring for vulnerable populations. The report specifically identifies telehealth and virtual care strategies as very promising options to help maintain or supplement access to health care in vulnerable rural and urban communities with problems recruiting an adequate healthcare workforce. 

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  • Michigan’s New Telehealth Law Requires Patient Consent

    mHealth Intelligence

    Michigan lawmakers have approved telehealth legislation that enables healthcare providers to use the technology with the patient's consent. S.B. 753, introduced in February by State Sen. Peter MacGregor, passed unanimously in the House on December 1 and in the Senate on December 6. It will become law in 90 days, making Michigan the latest state to set guidelines for telehealth. “This is a commonsense healthcare reform for a modern age,” MacGregor said following the bill’s passage. “Society has never been more connected, yet a patient’s ability to see a medical professional is becoming more and more constrained as hospital wait times grow. This bill would help improve access to care, which could lead to healthier patient outcomes.”  “Telehealth could transform healthcare in Michigan,” MacGregor added, noting the bill had been supported by groups including the Michigan Association of Health Plans, the Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Spectrum Health and Ascension Michigan. “It allows healthcare professionals to extend their reach beyond a corner office to meet patients where they are. It enhances access to and use of healthcare in our state, reduces costs, encourages competition and, most importantly, could lead to healthier lives.”

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  • Telehealth Can Work for Veterans Dealing With Depression

    mHealth Intelligence

    Veterans dealing with depression can be treated just as well with telehealth as with in-person care, according to a recent study. Studying more than 200 senior-aged veterans for one year between 2007 and 2011, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and other institutions found “little of no meaningful difference” in symptoms or patient satisfaction between care delivered in a clinician’s office and that delivered via video. The one difference lies in convenience, especially for elderly veterans. “Based on results of this study and prior research, telemedicine is a highly relevant option to address the needs of rural patients or those living in remote locations, while providing patient satisfaction and quality of life similar to that provided by in-person treatment delivered at clinics,” Leonard Egede, MD, director of the MUSC Center for Health Disparities Research, a VA physician and the lead author of the study, told Reuters. Engede and his team followed 241 veterans over the course of a year, randomly assigning some of the them to eight weeks of in-person counseling and others to counseling via phone and video monitor.

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  • mHealth Patch is Put to the Test at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    mHealth Intelligence

    Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital is launching a remote patient monitoring study to determine whether a smart patch can help physicians take care of patients at home rather than in the hospital. The hospital, part of the Partners HealthCare network, began enrolling roughly 60 patients this fall, and plans to scale up to 500 patients in early 2017. Eligible patients must be diagnosed in the hospital’s emergency department with exacerbation of heart failure, pneumonia, COPD, cellulitis or complicated urinary tract infection. Half of the patients in the study are admitted to the hospital for traditional treatment, while the other half are “admitted to home” - discharged with an RPM platform that includes biosensor patches designed by VitalConnect and personalized physiology analytics technology designed by PhysIQ. The lightweight, wireless patch continuously monitors vital signs and other data – such as heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, skin temperature, posture, step count and falls – and transmits that data back to clinicians.

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  • A New York Blue Braces For a Big Dose of Telehealth

    Internet Health Management

    A New York Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan is expecting some heavy-duty traffic when the health insurer rolls out digital doctor visits in January. The Blue Cross plan—Excellus Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which covers 1.5 million members in upstate New York—says it expects as many as 50,000 visits to a new soon-to-be launched telehealth service. In January, Excellus will roll out a telehealth program using the services of MDLive Medical Group, a telehealth platform developer and service provider based in Sunrise, Fla., with a network of 800 doctors. Excellus expects plenty of calls, says  senior vice president and corporate medical officer Martin Lustick. “The ideal method for having minor medical conditions addressed is to see your doctor,” Lustick says. “But if your doctor can’t see you immediately for an office visit, ask whether he or she can address the issue with telemedicine. And if that isn’t available, other telemedicine providers, such as MDLive, can address most of those common conditions and prescribe medicine when medically indicated.” Excellus is set to offer telemedicine visits to all plan members and members insured through Medicare Advantage. 

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  • Bipartisan Legislation Proposes Telehealth Solutions for Effective Chronic Disease Management

    The National Law Review

    Collaborative efforts between congressional offices and various health care stakeholders, as well as the feedback provided in response to the Bipartisan CHRONIC Care Working Group Policy Options Document released in December of 2015, have driven the Senate Finance Committee to introduce a draft of bipartisan legislation known as the CHRONIC Care Act, which seeks to modernize Medicare payment policies to improve the management and treatment of chronic diseases using telehealth. As a result of the collaborative efforts between congressional offices and various health care stakeholders, and the feedback provided in response to the Bipartisan CHRONIC Care Working Group Policy Options Document released in December of 2015, the Senate Finance Committee recently introduced a draft of bipartisan legislation known as the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes necessary to Improve CHRONIC Care Act of 2016 (the CHRONIC Care Act). The CHRONIC Care Act seeks to modernize Medicare payment policies to improve the management and treatment of chronic diseases using telehealth. Over the past several years, there has been increased attention by Congress and federal agencies on prevention, management and treatment of chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, as they are long-lasting and persistent health problems that require continuous, expensive care. 

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