Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • 8 Reasons Why Telehealth is Gaining Momentum Right Now

    Healthcare IT News

    Telehealth has seen a surge of systems implementing programs in a variety of clinical settings recently. The KLAS and CHIME’s report in October indicated the momentum is building (and HIMSS put in an official ask to Congress for support as well). With the clearing of some regulation hurdles for reimbursement and crossing state lines, the financial savings and patient interest, is only going to grow. (But there is a recent study discounting its benefits).  Recent happenings have been shining a brighter light on telehealth programs. Here are a few:

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  • VETS Act, Supporting Telehealth for Veterans, Now in Senate’s Hands

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth advocates are cheering the House’s unanimous approval this week of the VETS Act, saying it would give the nation’s veterans unfettered access to telehealth no matter where they live. “The passage of our bill in the House today marks a major step toward our goal of expanding the VA’s ability to provide better, more accessible care to our veterans – including right in their own homes,” Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor with Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) of The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 (H.R. 2123), said in a press release following Tuesday’s vote. “New technologies provide us with better ways to provide care for veterans and tailor it to their unique needs, and we need to capitalize on that innovation.” Whether the Senate feels the same way remains to be seen. A companion bill submitted by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), S. 925, still sits before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, to which it was referred last April. The bill would give Veterans Affairs doctors an exemption from state licensure laws to treat veterans via telehealth in any location. It also mandates that VA Secretary David Shulkin report back to Congress within the year on “the effectiveness of the use of telemedicine by the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

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  • House Passes VETS Act That Would Ease Telehealth Licensing Restrictions at the VA

    FierceHealthcare

    The House of Representatives voted to pass the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 on Tuesday that would allow physicians within the VA health system to practice telehealth across state lines. The legislation mirrors a proposed rule from the Department of Veterans Affairs that received broad support from provider and health IT organizations during a comment period that ended last week. VA credentialing regulations allow providers that are licensed in good standing in one state to see patients in person in any other state, but “the same reciprocity is not afforded to the practice of telehealth,” the bill's co-sponsor Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Penn., said on the House floor before the vote. “While the VA has made major strides, and is a leader in advancing telehealth access, outdated barriers limit its growth,” he said. Thompson noted that in 2016, 12% of veterans utilized telehealth services with an 88% satisfaction rate. Nearly half lived in rural parts of the country.In addition to allowing VA physicians to practice telehealth across the country, the bill would require the VA to submit a report on the effectiveness of telemedicine at the VA.

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  • CMS, AMA Look for Common Ground on Remote Patient Monitoring

    mHealth Intelligence

    Fans of remote patient monitoring found a lot to like in new payment rules released last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, continuing what many hope is a trend toward CMS support for mHealth and telehealth technology.  Beginning in 2019, CMS will support clinicians who leverage remote monitoring tools, such as wearables and smart devices at home, and use patient-generated health data in care coordination and management.  The changes are included in CMS’ Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) improvements, which would enable doctors using “non-face-to-face chronic care management using remote monitoring and or telehealth technology” to receive Advancing Care Information (ACI) program points for activities like sending medication reminders, collecting, monitoring and reviewing patient physiological data and prescribing patient education.  The rules drew praise from the Connected Health Initiative, which had lobbied CMS for RPM incentives this past February.  "These new rules are an important step forward for America’s connected health innovators, doctors and, most importantly, patients,” CHI Executive Director Morgan Reed said in a statement. “Until now, connected health technologies have been effectively locked out of the most important part of America’s healthcare system, Medicare and Medicaid.”  

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  • Support Grows for Bill Expanding Telehealth Access for Veterans

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill that would allow Veterans Affairs physicians to us treat veterans via telehealth no matter where they live has passed muster with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.  The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 (H.R. 2123), submitted in the House last April by U.S. Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), sailed through a markup session on Thursday with little opposition. The bill now moves on to the full House.  “I think this is going to expand telehealth within the VA and I think it will improve upon our healthcare delivery to our veterans across the nation,” Brownley told the committee during Thursday’s hearing.  A companion bill, submitted by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), S. 925, still awaits action in the Senate. Ernst, a veteran, and Hirono had first submitted the legislation in 2015.  While the VETS Act has received strong support, chances of its passage into law are still slim, owing to a reluctance in Congress to pass any new legislation related to telehealth or telemedicine. Skopos Labs, a New York-based software developer that analyzes Congressional legislation, gives the bill a 12 percent chance of success, according to GovTrack.

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  • The Promise of Telemedicine for American Health Care

    PR Newswire

    Although amazing advances unceasingly occur in drug development and medical procedures, delivery of health care services to patients has been woefully slow to embrace technology. It took a federal government mandate in 2014 to force health care providers to adopt and demonstrate "meaningful use" of electronic medical records (EMR) in order to maintain Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement levels. Since the mandate, the use of EMR's has expanded worldwide, improving quality, safety and efficiencies throughout global health organizations. However, health care still, disturbingly, stands apart from all other industries in the efficient conveyance of patient services, which is most acutely felt among the 80+ million Americans that live in underserved rural areas. These regions suffer from a chronic shortage of primary care physicians and, even more critically, specialty care physicians. Urban-based health companies have little incentive to expand footprints into sparsely populated communities, and the promises that telemedicine would fill this critical void have fallen far short of expectations.

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  • mHealth Data Adds Detail, Meaning to Population Health Programs

    mHealth Intelligence

    Smartphones have long been considered an ideal mHealth tool for personalized medicine, capable of collecting individual data and pushing out targeted reminders and information. Now that data is being used to power population health programs, with strong success.  When a school district superintendent learned that a majority of text messages regarding eating disorders was sent on Wednesday mornings, for example, he alerted his staff to make that an emphasis of education and outreach on that day. And in Louisville, Ky., data collected from smartphones used by asthma patients was combined with climate and sociological information to help city health officials pinpoint when and where air quality would trigger asthma attacks.  “Each message that comes in to us is a data point,” says Baylee Greenberg, chief operations officer of Crisis Text Line, on online crisis hotline that has handled some 52 million messages since its founding in 2014 and uses those messages for both personal and population health outreach. And that data, she says, can help in tailoring effective outreach methods.  

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  • Telemedicine Services Aid Emergency Care in Rural Texas

    HealthData Management

    A pilot program in Texas that went live 10 months ago is linking ambulance paramedics with five small hospitals in five expansive counties across a vast rural area of the state. Initially funded for $500,000 over two years by legislation, the funds actually were awarded to the Commission on State Emergency Communications, which then contracted with the University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock to run the program. The ambulances have video telemedicine technology in a “DOT Telemedicine Backpack” that includes enterprise class modems and a sophisticated antenna array to communicate with hospital-based clinicians and provide advanced care on the way to local trauma centers or to University Medical Center in Lubbock. The telemedicine backpack comes from vendor swyMed, supplemented with a LTE/4G cellular signal from Verizon and AT&T to link ambulances to treatment centers, and it’s able to give high-quality video at the lowest bandwidths and in the most remote regions. The pilot focuses on trauma, cardiac and stroke emergency medical calls, with hospital physicians being able to see injuries and the accident site so treatment can begin immediately to determine the most appropriate facility to send the patient. 

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  • Telehealth Approach to Addiction Treatment Holds Promise of Slowing Opioid Epidemic

    PR Newswire

    Amid the worst drug epidemic in history, President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.  As the nation looks to stem this crisis, mental health and substance abuse professionals are fighting the battle and seeking better ways to deliver care and improved patient outcomes. One company is showing the way forward with a program of telecounseling, analytics and family engagement.People suffering from substance abuse often enter inpatient facilities for detoxification and withdrawal. But the real battle begins when the person leaves a controlled environment and returns home. Faced with issues that may have exacerbated the addiction, those struggling with addiction often succumb, resulting in a 40% to 60% relapse rate. Traditional outpatient care requires visiting a counselor or going to local AA meetings. Many substance abuse patients require more intensive care. Like telemedicine for doctors, telecounseling with licensed therapists allows discharged patients to engage in low intensity, high engagement treatment while at work, home or in school. 

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  • Virtual Care Advancement | Outlook on CHRONIC Care Act and Other Federal Legislation

    The National Law Review

    The Senate’s unanimous passage of the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017 (S.870) on September 26th is an encouraging step forward for modernizing telehealth access and reimbursement. The bipartisan, budget-neutral bill aims to improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions and includes key provisions expanding access to telehealth. A summary of the key telehealth provisions under the CHRONIC Care Act can be found here.  The bill now moves to the House Subcommittee on Health and may be adopted in its current form or integrated into existing House bills. The House has already advanced three separate bills this year with telehealth provisions similar to those included in the CHRONIC Care Act: expanding telehealth services under Medicare Advantage (HR 3727), expanding telehealth for stroke patients (HR 1148), and expanding the use of telehealth to facilitate the use of home dialysis (HR 3178).

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  • Rural Health: Connecting Doctors and Patients

    Alabama Public Radio

    All year long on Alabama Public Radio, we’ve been looking at rural health care. Advocates of rural health in Alabama say one of the biggest issues is access to health care in rural areas. The state is facing a massive shortage of physicians, and the doctors we do have are largely concentrated in metropolitan areas.  The situation gets worse when it comes to specialty and subspecialty care. The vast majority of the state’s specialists are in Birmingham, Huntsville or Mobile. But doctors are now starting to use technology to bring specialty care into rural Alabama.  “So how is everything today?”  “It’s good. Everything’s good.”  Mary Epp is 84 years old and a home dialysis patient. She’s at a routine followup appointment with her endocrinologist Dr. Eric Wallace at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. But Mrs. Epp isn’t in Birmingham. She’s at the Dallas County Health Department, about 75 miles to the south.  “They can not only see each other face-to-face, but they can use enhancements to listen to the heart rate, to monitor the EKG, to look into the ears, the eyes, the nose, the throat...”  Dr. Walter Geary is the Medical Director for the Alabama Department of Public Health. Thanks to telemedicine equipment at dozens of county health departments across the state, Dr. Wallace is able to provide Mrs. Epp and many other patients a full-fledged checkup hundreds of miles apart.  I caught up with Dr. Wallace at a statewide conference on telehealth.  

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  • Mobile Unit Shows Off Telemedicine for VA Patients

    The Augusta Chronicle

    The lasers scanned across the large wound in the heel of the foot and soon its exact dimensions popped up in a line down the right hand side of the screen. This and other technologies on display Monday are how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is using telemedicine and interactive devices to try and improve care and access to care for patients.  The Telehealth Education Delivered mobile unit stopped by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta to show off telemedicine technology that the national VA is using to reach out to provide greater access, particularly through its 700 outpatient clinics. The Augusta VA has seen 2,500 telehealth visits in the last year, primarily through its community clinics in Athens, Aiken and Statesboro, said April Harris, facility telehealth coordinator. And it is looking to do more with what it calls clinical video telehealth, she said.

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  • Kansas Payers Push Back Against Telehealth Payment Parity

    mHealth Intelligence

    Payers in Kansas are fighting proposals for payment parity in telehealth, saying a virtual visit shouldn’t be reimbursed at the same rate as in in-person visit. “Telemedicine services are not equivalent to in-person services and, therefore, should not receive parity to in-person services in reimbursements,” Coni Fries, of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, said during a Kansas Legislature committee meeting last week. “Primary care physicians are paid at a higher rate because we expect them to manage our members’ care throughout the year. On the contrary, telemedicine appointments might be one-time engagements.” Reimbursement is one of the most vexing issues hindering the expansion of telehealth and telemedicine, with payers, providers and legislators all at odds over how physicians should be paid for their online time. 

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  • Kansas Lawmakers Wade Into Telemedicine Insurance Controversy

    CJonline.com

    A committee of the Kansas Legislature examined complexities Friday of expanding the reach of telemedicine despite apprehension among insurance companies about reimbursement costs for care. More than 30 states, including four bordering Kansas, have sought to improve access to health care in rural areas by enacting laws requiring insurance plans to cover delivery of remote medical services provided via telecommunications systems.During the 2017 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers considered two bills that would mandate companies offering coverage for telemedicine care to pay the same rate to providers as they would for in-person care. Companies not involved in telemedicine wouldn’t be subject to the payment law. Neither bill made it out of the House, and the issue was kicked to an interim panel expected to make recommendations to the 2018 Legislature. Eve-Lynn Nelson, director of the Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth at the University of Kansas Medical Center, told state legislators on a joint House and Senate health committee that specialists at the medical center witnessed the advantages for patients every day.  

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  • Report: Nearly Every State Has Updated its Telehealth Legislation Since Last Year

    MobiHealth News

    As telehealth becomes more prevalent among US healthcare institutions, states are rolling out or modifying their laws to better define regulatory frameworks specifically affecting remote delivery of care. In fact, every state but Connecticut and Massachusetts has made substantive legal changes to how telehealth is delivered in the past year, with some taking specific actions to better define the path of mental health-focused treatment, according to recent data on telemental regulations released by healthcare and life sciences firm Epstein Becker Green.

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