Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Telemedicine Legislation Clears Arkansas House Committee

    Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

    Legislation that would allow phone-based health care services in Arkansas, while restricting telemedicine in schools, cleared another hurdle Thursday when it won a favorable recommendation from a House committee. Sponsored by West Memphis Democratic Rep. Deborah Ferguson, whose husband is a radiologist, House Bill 1437 would remove restrictions enacted by the Legislature in 2015 that have prevented Arkansans from being able to use smartphones or computers to receive diagnoses and prescriptions from doctors they have never met in person. The bill also would create new restrictions for schools, requiring authorization from a child's primary-care physician before an exam could be conducted in a school using telemedicine. That restriction came in response to concerns about a pilot project allowing pupils of Angie Grant Elementary School in Benton to receive video examinations, conducted in the school nurse's office, from a doctor with Arkansas Children's Hospital. The hospital has plans to expand the program to 40 schools in more than 10 districts, which has sparked fears by some lawmakers that it will take business from pediatricians and family-practice doctors in those areas. Marcy Doderer, chief executive of Children's Hospital, spoke against identical legislation, Senate Bill 146 by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, at a meeting last week of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. 

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  • Examining the Rocky Road to Telehealth Parity

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth advocates have long argued that online and digital healthcare should be treated the same as in-person healthcare. But the call for parity isn’t so simple. Parity in telehealth is approached on two levels: Service and payment. If a telehealth service exists that can match an in-person service – say, primary care, specialty care or emergency care – it should be made available to consumers. Thus, people who can’t easily access healthcare in person can get the care they need via telehealth. But for providers, that new service has to have a return on value, and it’s usually found in reimbursements. If a doctor or health system can’t get paid for providing the service, they probably won’t use it. So it’s up to the payers – government and private – to place a value on telehealth that gives healthcare providers a compelling reason (for now, at least) to adopt it.

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  • Texas, Utah Move Forward With New Telemedicine Rules

    mHealth Intelligence

    The battle in Texas to ease one of the country’s most restrictive telemedicine laws may be ending, with a compromise bill reported to be heading to the Legislature. State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, told the Houston Chronicle he’ll sponsor the bill, which could eliminate the requirement that physicians meet with patients in person before using telehealth. Texas is one of the last states to mandate that the doctor-patient relationship be established in person before telehealth can be used. "I think we will have a bill very soon," he said. Others hailed the apparent resolution of a years-long dispute, which began in 2011 when the state medical board told doctors they risked losing their licenses if they failed to meet in person with a patient before doing business online or on the phone. "This is significant, and will be a winner for everyone," said Nora Belcher, executive director of the Texas e-Healthcare Alliance. "This is going to get us a fair and open market for telemedicine in Texas." "(The Texas Medical Association) applauds Senator Schwertner for his leadership in helping us all pursue a compromise telemedicine bill on our patients' behalf," added Dr. Ray Callas, chairman of the association’s Council on Legislation. "While we are pleased that the seed of a legislative agreement is in place, we acknowledge that more work remains before it can grow into a new law to guide this valuable form of patient care for the future." In Utah, meanwhile, a bill to improve that state’s telemedicine rules also appears headed for passage – with one very noticeable restriction added.

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  • Are We Focusing On The Right Silent Killer? Digital Solutions Can Be The Answer To Mental Health

    Forbes

    The need for holistic treatment focusing on the person is increasingly becoming of paramount significance, especially when there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that physical and mental health are intrinsically interlinked and that one cannot treat each separately. In fact, most chronic diseases lead to mental health issues or vice versa. Studies report that more than 30% of patients suffering from colorectal cancer or coronary heart disease are prone to depression. Inversely, depressed patients are at a 1.6 times higher risk to develop diabetes or heart disease in their lifetime. While we continue to focus only on the physical manifestations, we cannot pay enough attention to the actual silent killer. The global annual cost of mental illnesses is set to rise to an immense $6 trillion in 2030, from $2.5 trillion in 2010. To put this amount in perspective, consider the global spend on healthcare in 2009–$5.1 trillion. Furthermore, the global treatment gap in 2004 for disorders such as depression and anxiety was more than 50% (half of the patients went untreated). Unfortunately, the situation has still not changed significantly.

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  • ​Telehealth Center Breaks Down Barriers to Healthcare

    The Cavalier Daily

    The University’s Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth has saved Virginians over 16 million miles of travel in its more than two-decade history of combating disparities in the access and timeliness of healthcare. Telemedicine is broadly defined as the use of advanced technologies to improve the quality of healthcare. It allows for remote treatment or consultation between specialists and patients or other medical providers. The University’s Telehealth Center was co-founded 22 years ago by its namesake — Dr. Karen Rheuban, who is a pediatric cardiologist in the University Health System. The Center now provides services in over 60 specialties and subspecialties — with 152 local partners in Virginia and 22 international programs — such as the Tanzanian Women’s Global Health Initiative and a surgical case teleconference in Rwanda. Through the Center’s partnership with the Swinfen Charitable Trust, University Health practitioners also provide free, store-and-forward consultations for medical professionals in over 70 countries. This type of telemedicine allows practitioners to store medical images and data, send it to one of the Center’s specialists and receive feedback outside of real-time. “There’s no billing that happens with that,” Rheuban said. “The same is true for the work we’re doing in Rwanda [and] for the work we’re doing in Uganda — this is more in support of our educational and research missions, but what we do with telemedicine is charitable here.”

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  • FCC Reversal on Broadband Subsidies Dampens Telehealth's Potential

    Healthcare DIVE

    There are currently 23 million Americans without high-speed internet, according to the FCC. More than 12 million households without access to internet would qualify for subsidies under the proposal, according to data collected by the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the Lifeline program. The potential for telemedicine to improve access to health is limited if people do not have the internet. Last month, Pew Research reported 77% of Americans own a smartphone today. In April 2015, they stated lower income and "smartphone-dependent" users are likely to use their phone for job and employment activities. In addition to employment activities, smartphones have the potential to gain healthcare services access to lower-income individuals. A study led by Dr. Kenneth M. McConnochie from the University of Rochester posits telehealth could benefit lower-income families who may forgo healthcare services otherwise.  But those families would likely need reliable internet to easily use such services. A significant portion of the 12 million that could gain high-speed internet access is also likely eligible for or covered by Medicaid. CMS issued a final rule last year prompting states to explore opportunities for telehealth in Medicaid programs.   The FCC has an important role in improving telehealth services. 

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  • Utah Moves to Ban Telehealth for Doctors Prescribing Abortion-Inducing Medications

    Healthcare IT News

    Overall, Utah lawmakers want to promote the use of telemedicine in the state. But a new piece of legislation seeking to modernize various telehealth rules in the state also has another goal that has catapulted the bill into a debate: prohibit the use of telemedicine to prescribe medication to induce an abortion. Introduced by Republican Representative Ken Ivory, the amendment bill HB 154 mainly works to clarify definitions surrounding reimbursement models for physicians providing telehealth services, but the end of the bill specifically states practitioners “may not issue a prescription through electronic prescribing for a drug or treatment to cause an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother would be endangered without an abortion.”   The bill moved from the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Standing Committee and is onto the full House, where it is expected to pass in the majority Republican legislature. If passed, Utah would be the 20th state in the country that requires a doctor to be physically present when prescribing abortion-inducing medication. The amendment is similar to bills that have recently been struck down in other states. Idaho recently stopped banning the use of telemedicine to provide abortion-inducing medication following the settlement of a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, and that organization also won a similar lawsuit in Iowa in 2015 when the state Supreme Court ruled a 2013 rule preventing doctors from administering abortion-inducing medication via telehealth was unconstitutional. 

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  • Arkansas Moves to OK Telehealth at Home

    mHealth Intelligence

    Arkansas lawmakers are moving toward new telehealth regulations that would resolve an “originating site” issue that caused problems last year. But they may be wading into new problems with school-based programs. The state Senate’s Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee voted this week to approve amendments to the state’s telemedicine rules that would, among other things, enable residents to access telehealth services from their home or other remote locations. The bill now passes to the full state Senate. Arkansas Act 887, signed into law in 2015, stipulates that an originating site must be in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office. That drew the ire of healthcare providers seeking to launch remote monitoring programs and large businesses like Wal-Mart and trucking company H.B. Hunt, who noted the law prevents their employees from accessing telehealth through mobile devices at home or on the road. Arkansas Senate Bill 146, submitted on January 19 by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, would define an originating site as wherever the patient is located. The bill also states that healthcare providers treating minors in a school telehealth program must either:

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  • New Jersey Boosts Telehealth Access for Veterans

    mHealth Intelligence

    New Jersey’s Virtua Health is getting almost $300,000 to enhance its telehealth platform for veterans. The health system, consisting of four hospitals, dozens of clinics and care facilities, a fleet of mobile intensive care units and a home care services, will use the grant from the New Jersey Department of Health to, among other things, coordinate care for veterans through InSight Telepsychiatry. “For many veterans, travel to see a healthcare provider can be complicated and overwhelming, particularly in areas where transportation options might be limited,” Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said in a press release. “Telehealth can ease the burden by offering long-distance virtual care to veterans while they remain in a comfortable environment.” While the Department of Veterans Affairs is well-known for his telehealth program, advocates say some veterans are staying away from VA hospitals because of concerns about overcrowding or quality of care. They may also have mobility or transportation issues, or emotional issues that keep them away from hospitals. 

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  • Telemedicine Gains Popularity in Schools, Connects Ailing Students with Doctors

    The Washington Post

    In late November, on the first cold morning of the season, a second-grader at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, Md., had trouble breathing during recess. When the school nurse, Veronica DeSimone, examined the girl, she heard wheezing in her chest and determined that the child was having an asthma attack. The nurse would have administered relieving medication, but the girl’s parents hadn’t yet signed a permission form or delivered their daughter’s medicine to the Howard County school. The girl’s father, the only parent available, was at work, at least an hour away. There was no time to wait for him to come get his daughter. Not long ago, DeSimone would have had to call an ambulance to take the child to the emergency room, forcing her to miss the rest of her classes that day. Instead, DeSimone set up an online video and audio link to a pediatrician at Howard County General Hospital’s emergency room. Having previously received permission from the girl’s parents to participate in the school’s telemedicine program, DeSimone examined her with a digital stethoscope, which allowed the pediatrician to listen to the girl’s lungs remotely. The doctor quickly confirmed DeSimone’s diagnosis and directed her to administer the necessary medicine. Within 10 minutes, the child was breathing normally and back in class. Telemedicine, increasingly used in prisons, nursing homes and remote areas, is becoming more common in schools.

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  • 1 In 5 People Would Switch Doctors For Video Visits

    Forbes

    Two-thirds of consumers say they’ve delayed seeking care for a health problem. People do this because it costs too much (23%), it takes too long to see the doctor (23%), they think the issue will go away on its own (36%), or they’re just too busy (13%), according to a survey by telehealth company American Well. Of the people who have delayed seeing a doctor, almost a third were facing a serious health issue, the survey found. Ignoring a serious problem can create health complications, and even skipping regular health care can lead to difficulties if a minor issue escalates. What might help these consumers get their problems dealt with? Video doctor visits, the survey suggests. Two thirds of consumers would see a doctor over video—a practice that could cut down dramatically on the amount of time it takes to get care. Consider that the average in-office visit takes 121 minutes, including 101 minutes of commute and waiting room time—only 20 minutes with the doctor. 

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  • Indiana Lawmakers Wade Into the ‘Ocular Telehealth’ Battle

    mHealth Intelligence

    Some Indiana lawmakers want to amend the state’s telemedicine law to allow online eye tests and the prescription of contact lenses and glasses. The proposal may face a stiff battle. State lawmakers passed telemedicine rules last year that prohibited online eye exams and prescriptions after opposition from optometrists fearing they’d lose business to online companies. And South Carolina is being sued by one such company after it passed legislation last year banning online exams and prescriptions. Indiana House Bill 1331, submitted by State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Indianapolis), “(r)emoves the restriction on the prescribing of ophthalmic devices through telemedicine and sets conditions on when a provider may, through telemedicine, prescribe medical devices.” It would also require the state’s optometry board to regulate “ocular telemedicine or ocular telehealth” no more restrictively than it does for in-person services. “We all know that we have an access to healthcare services problem in Indiana,” Kirchhofer told Indiana Public Media. “So, in some parts, finding a healthcare provider is difficult in rural areas.” 

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  • Telemedicine Study Cites Tele-ICU’s Positive Impact on Patients

    mHealth Intelligence

    A year-long study of telemedicine programs at 17 hospital ICUs around the country has found that the tele-ICU concept has a direct impact on patient health. Presenting at the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s 46th Critical Care Congress this week in Hawaii, Dellice Dickhaus, MD, FCCP, director of operations for Advanced ICU Care, reported that a telemedicine platform helped reduce the average patient’s ICU stay by more than a third, saving more than 26,000 ICU days across the 17 hospitals.  More importantly, she said, the tele-ICU model of care reduced mortality rates by an average of 29 percent, allowing almost 390 patients to live longer than they would have lived in an ICU without access to telemedicine. Other aspects of the study indicated patients in an eICU were treated to better care coordination and management practices. 

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  • Wisconsin’s New Telemedicine Rules Approved By The Medical Examining Board

    The National Law Review

    Last month, the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board (MEB) approved new rules for the practice of telemedicine. For roughly nine months of 2016, the MEB Telemedicine Subcommittee worked through details of the new Med 24, ultimately offering a streamlined version of the first set of rules proposed in 2015. The new rules now await review by the Governor’s office, the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules and then move to the Wisconsin State Legislature for final approval. These final steps of the rulemaking process typically take a few months to accomplish, meaning the new rules could take effect by mid-2017. Provisions of Wisconsin’s new telemedicine rules primarily focus on the safety and relationship of the patients and physicians. Key components to accomplish safe medical interaction with patients who are not physically present include:

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  • Idaho to End Telehealth Restrictions for Abortions

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth advocates are cheering the end of a legal battle in Idaho over whether healthcare providers could use virtual visits to treat women seeking an abortion. Planned Parenthood has announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the state over two laws passed in April 2015. One, the Telehealth Access Act, allows providers to prescribe medications during a video consult with a patient, but adds one line specifically excluding drugs used to induce and abortion. The second law requires that a physician be present with the patient during an abortion. Under terms of the settlement, Idaho lawmakers will repeal the latter law and amend the Telehealth Access Act to eliminate the telemedicine drug restriction by the end of 2017. "Women in Idaho deserve the right to have access to the safest, highest quality healthcare,” Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, said in a press release. “These misguided laws do just the opposite by creating unnecessary hurdles to safe and legal abortion that are not grounded in science, but instead rooted in politics." 

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