Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Alaska Enacts New Telemedicine Law: What Providers Should Know

    The National Law Review

    Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed SB 74 into law on June 21, 2016, expanding the use of telemedicine in the Last Frontier state. Specifically, SB 74 removes Alaska’s previous in-state presence requirements for prescribing via telemedicine, and authorizes the use of telemedicine in certain clinical practices, including licensed audiologists, speech language pathologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Prior to SB 74, the controlling law was Alaska Statutes Section 08.64.364, which allowed physicians licensed and located in Alaska to prescribe drugs without conducting a physical exam under certain conditions. While that law expanded the availability of telehealth services in Alaska, it only applied to licensed physicians who were located in Alaska. SB 74 expands the availability of telehealth services in Alaska by eliminating the requirement that physicians be located in Alaska to practice telemedicine in the state. 

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  • CMS Gives Green Light to Digital Health Diabetes Prevention Program

    mHealth Intelligence

    A diabetes-based preventive health program that would reimburse providers who use digital health has received the full blessing of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. CMS is proposing to expand its Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to a full-fledged national program by the beginning of 2018, making it the first preventive service model to be certified for expansion out of the CMS Innovation Center. The decision follows a March announcement by the CMS Office of the Actuary that the program’s pilot had helped reduce Medicaid spending, at the same time that officials “determined that the program demonstrated the ability to improve the quality of patient care without limiting coverage or benefits.” Officials are now determining how to begin enrolling providers by 2017.

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  • Telehealth, CDS Provisions Outlined in Proposed Physician Fee Schedule Rule

    FierceHealthcare

    Proposed changes to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2017 contain several IT provisions, including ones around the use of telehealth, clinical decision support for imaging and technology related to the Diabetes Prevention Program. For telehealth, the agency proposes adding several codes to the list of services eligible to use such tools, including services for end-stage renal disease related to dialysis, advance care planning and critical care consultations. For decision support, CMS points out that the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 requires providers to consult physician-developed appropriateness criteria when ordering advanced imaging studies for Medicare patients. 

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  • Medicaid Coverage for Telehealth Bill Bigned by Governor Ige

    University of Hawaii News

    Governor David Ige signed a bill into law today which expands coverage in Hawaiʻi for telemedicine services. Senate Bill 2395, Relating to Telehealth, requires the state’s Medicaid managed care and fee-for-service programs cover services provided through telehealth, stating that these programs “shall not deny coverage for any service provided through telehealth that would be covered if the service were provided through in-person consultation between a patient and a health care provider.” Governor Ige said the bill is dear to his heart and his long-running efforts to relieve Hawaiʻi’s physician shortage, which is especially severe on the neighbor islands, and which has been the object of several studies conducted by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Hawaiʻi Area Health Education Center.

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  • Ohio Moves to Limit Telehealth in Cross-Coverage Situations

    mHealth Intelligence

    Ohio’s medical board is seeking to close a loophole that enables telehealth providers to prescribe medications during cross-coverage for doctors in the state. In a move apparently targeting Teladoc, the State Medical Board of Ohio is seeking to change Chapter 4731-11-09 of its Administrative Code to define an “active patient” as one that a provider has seen in person during the previous 24 months or conducted an evaluation via an approved video platform. This would essentially prohibit telehealth providers like Teladoc from prescribing medications to patients that it hasn’t seen before during cross-coverage.“The public purpose of Rule 4731-11-09 is to implement the policy of the State of Ohio to authorize remote medical care, including the provision of non-controlled substances, when standards facilitating protection of the public are met,” the proposal states. “The rule clarifies for physicians, other healthcare workers and the public the standards for establishing a physician-patient relationship for the purposes of prescribing or otherwise providing drugs when the physician is remote from a patient and on whom the physician has never conducted a physical examination.”

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  • Telehealth Sweet Spot? Remote Monitoring of Patients With Cardiovascular or Respiratory Disease, AHRQ Says

    Healthcare IT News

    The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality combed through 58 systematic reviews amid a substantial volume of research on telemedicine to pinpoint when telehealth interventions work best. The data suggests telehealth improves outcomes such as mortality, quality of life and reductions in hospital admissions when used for remote patient monitoring for certain chronic conditions as well as for psychotherapy as part of behavioral health. Top chronic conditions for telehealth success: cardiovascular and respiratory disease, according to AHRQ. AHRQ noted, however, that information on how telehealth affects cost and utilization is currently limited. Thirteen percent of the reviews considered by AHRQ in its report indicate that telehealth provides a benefit in terms of reduced costs and utilization; 34 percent say there is a potential benefit; 31 percent were inconclusive; and 22 percent found no benefit.

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  • Nebraska Looking at Ways to Encourage Telehealth Services

    Modern Healthcare

    Nebraska lawmakers are once again looking for ways to expand so-called telehealth services throughout the state to address a shortage of specialized health care providers and an aging rural population. Telehealth services are flourishing nationwide, allowing doctors and patients to connect through webcams and smartphones. But advocates say the technology still faces substantial obstacles that have kept it from spreading faster in Nebraska. One senator has launched a legislative study of the technology that will begin in earnest later this month. Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston said he wants to learn how other states are adopting the technology and what Nebraska can do to make it easier, safer and more effective. The unanswered questions include how doctors are reimbursed when using telehealth, the cost of using the technology and liability when something goes wrong.

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  • USDA Telemedicine Grants Target Opioid Abuse

    mHealth Intelligence

    Federal officials are using telemedicine grants to combat a growing opioid epidemic in three mid-Atlantic and southern states.bout $1.4 million was pledged to five projects in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a town hall in Abington, Va. The grants, part of the federal Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program, will be used to beef up telemedicine programs to reach people in rural Appalachia. The grants are as follows:

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  • Louisiana’s New Telemedicine Law Opens Doors, Removes Barriers

    Health Care Law Today

    Louisiana’s governor signed into law, HB 570, (the “Act”), eliminating a prior requirement that physicians practicing telemedicine maintain an office in Louisiana or contract with in-state providers. The Act also changes the telemedicine modality required for a patient encounter from “two-way video” technology to “interactive audio” (provided the modality is sufficient to meet the same standard of care as an in-person encounter). The Act requires telemedicine providers make referrals to, or arrangements for, follow-up care when necessary. The Act became effective on June 17, 2016. The new law comes on the heels of Louisiana’s Board of Medical Examiners’ telemedicine regulations last fall. In those rules, the Board revised its practice standards for telemedicine, the requirements for a telemedicine permit, and rules on remote prescribing of controlled substances. 

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  • Telemedicine Shows Promise in Parkinson’s Disease Care

    News Medical

    Like countless other patients, Ann Johnson, a retired veterinarian, has been willing to travel long distances and devote an entire day to be treated by a specialist at Rush University Medical Center. But a recent appointment lasted less than 30 minutes, and the only travel was to her living room. Diagnosed nine years ago with Parkinson's disease, Johnson and a family member would drive regularly more than 130 miles from Champaign to be treated by Christopher Goetz, MD, a leading expert on movement disorders and director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Rush. Then earlier this year, she began participating in a telemedicine pilot project that, if fully developed, would allow about every other of her visits to be conducted via secure, live-streaming video from her home. "As a medical professional, I know the importance of developing innovative approaches," Johnson says. "When you see your vital signs right on the screen, it's really quite neat." The potential of telemedicine — the delivery of health services using communication technologies such as telephone or the Internet — has been discussed for years, but improved technology and lower broadband costs are making that promise very real for patients like Johnson.

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  • How Telemedicine Is Transforming Health Care

    The Wall Street Journal

    After years of big promises, telemedicine is finally living up to its potential. Driven by faster internet connections, ubiquitous smartphones and changing insurance standards, more health providers are turning to electronic communications to do their jobs—and it’s upending the delivery of health care. Doctors are linking up with patients by phone, email and webcam. They’re also consulting with each other electronically—sometimes to make split-second decisions on heart attacks and strokes. Patients, meanwhile, are using new devices to relay their blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs to their doctors so they can manage chronic conditions at home. Telemedicine also allows for better care in places where medical expertise is hard to come by. Five to 10 times a day, Doctors Without Borders relays questions about tough cases from its physicians in Niger, South Sudan and elsewhere to its network of 280 experts around the world, and back again via the internet.

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  • Payers, Telehealth Vendors Getting Value Out of Partnerships

    Healthcare DIVE

    Health insurers are increasingly looking to telemedicine to ease provider shortages, expand access to care, increase patient satisfaction and lower costs. With advances in data sharing, payers and telehealth companies are also making strides in managing patient populations to improve outcomes. Teladoc, the nation’s largest telehealth provider, is currently working with 28 health plans, including Aetna, Oscar and Blue Shield of California. Others, like RelayHealth and Cirrus MD, are also partnering with insurers. Sharing gaps-in-care data identified through claims data with telehealth providers can help to improve health and outcomes, says Nirmal Patel, CMO at Teladoc, the nation’s largest telemedicine provider. The Dallas-based firm has invested in technology to ensure flow of information between its virtual providers and a patient’s physical doctors and health plan. Today, 48 states and the District of Columbia provide some form of Medicaid payment for telehealth services, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty-two states and D.C. offer some kind of private insurance policy.

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  • Telemedicine Is The Future Of Health Care

    The Daily Caller

    Between getting stuck in the waiting room and being probed with metal objects, a visit to the doctor’s office is rarely an enjoyable experience. Telemedicine is quickly changing that, becoming health care’s 21st century hero. One of greatest advancements in telemedicine is the development of telemedicine kiosks. Telemedicine kiosks are soundproof structures with large screens stationed inside, according to Amanda Guisbond, communications director for American Well — a company that creates telemedicine technology. The screen has a video interface, so that the patient can communicate by video with a physician without ever needing to schedule an in-office appointment. Patients have discretion in choosing the physician in their provider network from a list, which includes biographical information of each doctor.

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  • Alabama Telehealth Project Focuses on Home Dialysis Patients

    mHealth Intelligence

    Roughly a dozen home dialysis patients in Alabama now have their monthly checkups via telehealth, thanks to a partnership between the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and the Alabama Department of Public Health. The pilot program, launched in March and funded by Baxter Healthcare, hopes to eventually serve 40 patients through community health clinics scattered across the state. It’s an important project in a state that – unlike most of its neighbors – doesn’t have a health insurance parity law in place, thus severely limiting reimbursable telehealth services. Via a telemedicine cart, nephrologists can have a face-to-face visit with a patient via video feed, checking for signs of infection, dehydration or swelling. There’s a Bluetooth-enabled stethoscope available to listen to the patient’s lungs and heart, and an on-site nurse can draw blood samples.

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  • New York Legislation to Require Payment Parity for Telehealth Services

    Health Care Law Today

    New York introduced a new bill designed to ensure commercial health plans pay for telehealth services at the same rate the plans pay for in-person services. The legislation, SB 7953, comes on the heels of New York’s long-awaited telehealth coverage law and seeks to add payment parity language to the State’s existing telehealth coverage statute. See our prior article on New York’s telehealth coverage law for details on that statute. Effective January 1, 2016, the New York telehealth coverage law prohibited commercial insurers from “exclude[ing] from coverage a service that is otherwise covered under a policy that provides comprehensive coverage for hospital, medical or surgical care because the service is delivered via telehealth […].” While the intent and purpose of the telehealth coverage law was to ensure patients in New York could enjoy the choice to receive their covered services in-person or via telehealth technologies, the statute contains no payment parity language.

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