Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Rural Patients Gain More Telehealth Access in New WA Law

    mHealth Intelligence

    A new Washington state law to help expand patient access to telehealth services has earned the praise of the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA). The law, signed by the state’s governor Jay Inslee, clarifies the definition of “home” as an original treating site, allowing patients more leeway when receiving Medicaid reimbursements for telehealth services. Prior to the law’s passage, “home” only applied to patients who were accessing telehealth treatments in their literal homes. Now, “home” may apply to patients accessing telehealth treatment in “any location determined by the individual receiving the service,” the law says. This policy is set to begin on January 1, 2018. Adjusting the definition of home and the requirements for patients to receive telehealth services will help more patients access necessary healthcare, the WSMA said. 

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  • Houston's Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation Program Reduces Unnecessary Emergency Visits

    Government Technology

    For people living in cities, the constant sight of red lights and sound of sirens can be taxing. Their omnipresence can be particularly frustrating given that around 80 percent of calls to 911 aren't actual emergencies. To cut back on these expensive and often unnecessary trips to the hospital, cities are revamping their emergency services programs. Houston, a sprawling metropolis made up of more than 2 million people, is leading the charge. In 2014, the city launched a telemedicine service that has reduced 80 percent of the number of unnecessary emergency visits. The program is called ETHAN, which stands for Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation. It works like this: When paramedics arrive at the scene of an emergency and realize a patient doesn't need to be rushed to a hospital, they use a tablet to video chat with a specialist. For instance, a patient can chat with a nurse to get a prescription refilled or get an appointment scheduled on the spot with their primary care doctor for joint pain. 

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  • VA Wants to Make Telehealth Part of its Day-to-Day Business, but Says State Licensing Laws Stand in the Way

    Federal News Radio

    The Veterans Affairs Department has an ambitious long-term outlook for how it might dramatically expand the medical services it delivers to veterans through telehealth. As of now though, many of those plans are technically illegal because of state-by-state medical licensing requirements, and the department says that needs to change. VA is already regarded as a national leader in telemedicine. It spent $1.2 billion last year, up from $500 million in 2013, for a total of 2 million clinical encounters between veterans whose doctors were at distant locations. Overall, about 12 percent of the Veterans Health Administration’s enrolled patients got at least some portion of their treatment through telehealth. But the department says it wants to do a lot more.

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  • VA Turns to Congress to Expand Telemedicine

    CIO.com

    For all of its administrative challenges in providing essential healthcare, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been recognized for its successes in delivering telemedicine to reach rural and remote patients who might live hours from the nearest VA facility. But it could do more. Officials from the VA recently made their way to Capitol Hill to appeal for legislation that would grant the agency greater flexibility in providing remote health services to the military community. In particular, the VA is putting a "special emphasis" on improving the delivery of health services for veterans in rural and "underserved" areas, according to Dr. Kevin Galpin, executive director of telehealth services at the Veterans Health Administration. "Telehealth is mission-critical to the future of VA healthcare," Galpin told members of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, adding that the "potential to expand access and augment services is both vast and compelling."  "But to make this transition, the VA must operate in an environment that supports the type of advanced healthcare and service that these technologies enable us to provide," Galpin said. "This is where we need the help of Congress and a unified government that is fully aligned and working to fulfill our commitment to veterans." 

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  • FCC Seeks Input on Broadband Expansion for mHealth, Telehealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Federal officials are seeking advice from the telemedicine and mHealth community on how to improve broadband access for healthcare. The Federal Communication Commission and its Connect2Health Task Force are accepting comments through May 24 (reply comments are accepted through June 8) on “a variety of regulatory, policy and infrastructure issues related to the emerging broadband-enabled health and care ecosystem,” particularly in rural and underserved regions. Officials were quick to point out the phrase “heath and care” isn’t a typo. “We use the phrase ‘health and care’ deliberately … to reflect and include the broad range of participants in the emerging broadband health ecosystem, including providers (e.g., health systems, community health centers, clinicians, pharmacists, nutritionists, allied health professionals); public health and social service agencies and organizations; innovators and entrepreneurs; academic and research facilities; state and local policymakers; patients and their caregivers; as well as consumers who seek support to prevent disease and maintain optimum health,” reads the notice, posted earlier this month in the Federal Register. Broadband connectivity and access to high-speed Internet services are often listed as barriers to the advancement of telehealth, particularly in remote and rural regions. 

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  • Rural Telehealth Use Rises, But Challenges for PCPs Remain

    mHealth Intelligence

    Rural telehealth use has surpassed adoption in other care environments, but primary care providers (PCPs) continue to face organizational barriers when pursuing the implementation of telehealth solutions. Research from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that PCPs practicing in a rural setting were three times more likely to have used telehealth in the past year than providers in urban settings. Telehealth users were more likely to be located in a rural setting (26 percent vs. 15 percent), to use an electronic health record (97 percent vs. 92 percent), and to work in a practice with more than six other providers (40 percent vs. 29 percent).  The most popular use-case among telehealth-enabled providers involved the treatment of chronic diseases. Fifty-five percent of the providers who used telehealth services in 2014 indicated they used it for diagnosis and/or treatment purposes, chronic disease management, follow-up, second opinions, and emergency care. 

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  • Direct-to-Consumer Telehealth: One Hospital’s Virtual Care Plan

    mHealth Intelligence

    A small southern Maine hospital is using direct-to-consumer telehealth to put the community back into its community health mission. York Hospital’s new Virtual Care service aims to give local residents a more convenient connection to the doctors they’ve known for so long. Tucked into Exam Room 7 at the hospital’s walk-in clinic on Route 1 – a newly opened facility carved out of a former auto dealership – the platform offers a pre-scheduled virtual visit with a York Hospital doctor during weekday hours for a variety of minor ailments. Erich Fogg, clinical lead for the hospital’s virtual care walk-in service and lead provider for the hospital’s network of walk-in sites, says hospital administrators have been planning the platform since 2014. They wanted a small, branded platform that could address common ailments – sore throat, fevers, aches and pains – that would otherwise require a visit to the doctor’s office, perhaps the ER, or maybe one of the independent retail clinics popping up across southern Maine and New Hampshire. “All of these people have physicians who live right in the area,” he says. “We wanted to give them something more convenient.” Administrators at the 79-bed hospital, serving Maine’s southern counties and some New Hampshire residents across the nearby Piscataqua River, see the telehealth platform as an important link in bringing value-based healthcare to its patients. 

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  • HEART Act Targets Medicare Limits on Rural Telehealth, RPM

    mHealth Intelligence

    A new bill making its way around Capitol Hill aims to improve access to telehealth services for people with heart disease and those in rural parts of the country. The Helping Expand Access to Rural Telehealth (HEART) Act, filed on May 3 by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), aims to improve access to telehealth in rural parts of the country and expand remote patient monitoring programs for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. Duffy, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, is targeting a familiar deterrent to telemedicine: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which sets strict limits on reimbursement in rural areas that curb the development of new RPM platforms. “People in rural areas across America have been left behind, and they deserve access to modern medical practices,” he said in a press release. “The HEART Act will help Americans improve healthcare quality and contact with healthcare professionals, regardless of where they live.” 

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  • Legislation Introduced to Eliminate Barriers for Telehealth Adoption in Rural Areas

    Healthcare Informatics

    Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) introduced legislation that aims to expand reimbursement for telehealth services to rural clinics and metropolitan statistical areas with 70,000 people or fewer and also adds Medicare coverage for remote patient monitoring of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Rep. Duffy, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, introduced the bill, called the Helping Expand Access to Rural Telehealth (HEART) Act, to eliminate barriers for the adoption of telehealth services in rural areas, according to a press release from Rep. Duffy’s office. “People in rural areas across America have been left behind, and they deserve access to modern medical practices. The HEART Act will help Americans improve healthcare quality and contact with healthcare professionals, regardless of where they live,” Duffy said in a statement. According to data provided in the press release, telehealth video consultations are expected to grow from 19.7 million in 2014 to a projected 158.4 million by 2020. The number of telemedicine visits provided to Medicare beneficiaries increased by 28 percent per year from 2004 to 2013, for a total of 107,000 visits provided in 2013. 

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  • Senate Bill Expands Use of Telehealth, Remote Patient Monitoring

    HealthData Management

    Six U.S. senators have introduced legislation seeking to remove barriers to the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring for Medicare beneficiaries. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the bipartisan Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017. “Telehealth is the future of healthcare. It expands access to care, lowers costs and helps more people stay healthy,” said Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the healthcare system for both patients and healthcare providers.” The CONNECT for Health Act builds on the provisions of another recently introduced Senate bill—the CHRONIC Care Act—which aims to improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic diseases by, among other provisions, expanding access to telehealth services.

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  • CONNECT Act Returns, Targeting Telehealth Barriers in Medicare

    mHealth Intelligence

    A long-anticipated bill to expand telemedicine and telehealth services in Medicare has made it to Capitol Hill, adding to the growing list of digital health legislation in the nation’s capital. The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017 was reintroduced this week by the same six senators who had initially introduced the legislation in early 2016.  The bill aims to remove roadblocks to telemedicine expansion in Medicare by giving providers the freedom to experiment with telehealth in alternative payment models and incentive programs and expand remote patient monitoring programs for chronic care, remote and underserved populations.

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  • New Telehealth Training Center Aims to be a National Resource

    mHealth Intelligence

    According to healthcare providers attending last week’s American Telemedicine Conference in Orlando, one of the biggest challenges to launching a telehealth network is finding qualified staff. It’s a problem the National Academic Center for Telehealth hopes to solve. Recently launched at Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University, NACT aims to be a national – if not international – resource for training healthcare providers on the skills needed to run a telehealth or mHealth program, as well as a “resource focused on developing and translating new knowledge about how to incorporate technology into the generation of health and the delivery of healthcare.” Judd Hollander, MD, associate dean for strategic health initiatives at TJU’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College, says health systems across the country have been struggling to find qualified people to run telehealth and telemedicine programs. 

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  • Telehealth Licensure Compact Goes Live for Physical Therapists

    mHealth Intelligence

    Physical therapists in 10 states will soon be able to use telehealth to expand their practices and give consumers more access to mobile healthcare services. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature on HB 1278 this week means 10 states have signed onto the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact, overseen by the Federation of State Boards for Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The compact makes it easier for therapists to be licensed in member states. Washington joins Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi as compact members. Five states – New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas – have seen compact legislation approved in one legislative chamber so far, and another three – Illinois, Florida and New Jersey – have introduced legislation. FSBPT officials say the member state will begin processing PT license applications as soon as Compact Commission, composed of officials from the member states, meets to develop bylaws and guidelines for implementation. 

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  • Texas Senate Passes Bill Easing Restrictions on Telemedicine

    Houston Business Journal

    Telemedicine in Texas involves licensed health care professionals (physicians, and physician assistants or advanced practice nurses properly supervised by, and with delegated authority from, a physician) providing medical care to patients physically located at sites other than where the professional is located by use of technology that allows the professional to communicate with and see and hear the patients in “real” time. Telemedicine services have been growing rapidly in the United States in part because it can significantly reduce the cost of health care by reducing travel times, staffing and overhead requirements. Additionally, many employers have started to integrate telemedicine services into their benefit plan to increase employee choice and reduce plan costs. 

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  • 6 Insights on State Telehealth Legislation, Reimbursement

    Beckers Hospital Review

    The Center for Connected Health Policy, a nonprofit telehealth policy resource organization, published its fifth annual State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies report. The report details telehealth policies, laws and regulations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. To prepare the report, the Center for Connected Health Policy analyzed state laws, administrative codes and Medicaid provider manuals through March 2017. Here are six report findings:

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