Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Why Providers are Dragging Their Feet with Virtual Care

    HealthData Management

    Recently, health technology investor Malay Gandhi said, “telehealth is a runaway, unassailable trend that will become the predominant way people receive care.” If that could be the future, then why does today look so different? One important reason: Despite the well-documented benefits of virtual access to care—improved access to providers, greater efficiency and flexibility, comparable care outcomes—hundreds of interviews with healthcare leaders reveal a common roadblock to growing a mature program: physician resistance.  According to many physicians, their patients are only interested in having an in-person relationship with their doctor, especially when it comes to specialty services. Additionally, we increasingly hear about pushback related to uneven reimbursement for virtual services.  New survey findings, however, tell a different story. It’s not one many physicians are ready to swallow. Not only are patients interested in virtual care—many may actually prefer it.  According to a new Advisory Board survey, up to 77 percent of consumers would consider seeing a provider virtually, and 19 percent already have. The results suggest that the healthcare industry has largely underestimated and, to date, failed to meet consumer interest in virtual care.  

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  • Florida Cuts Telemedicine Out of New Medical Marijuana Law

    mHealth Intelligence

    Florida lawmakers have passed legislation that prevents doctors from using telemedicine to issue a prescription for medical marijuana. The rule, part of 80 pages of legislation passed by lawmakers during a special session on June 9, requires that Sunshine State doctors who want to issue a medical marijuana prescription must first “(conduct) a physical examination while physically present in the same room as the patient and a full assessment of the medical history of the patient.”  With some 29 states and Washington D.C. allowing medical marijuana (eight states have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational uses), state officials are looking to control how the drug is prescribed and distributed, including through telehealth. In a survey last year by the Federation of State Medical Boards, encompassing 57 of the 70 state medical and osteopathic boards across the US, medical marijuana was listed as the fifth most important issue facing these boards – while telehealth topped that list.

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  • New Jersey Lawmakers on Track to OK Telemedicine Legislation

    mHealth Intelligence

    New Jersey lawmakers are moving forward with a sweeping set of telemedicine regulations that would open the doors to telehealth, ensure parity and put the Garden State on track to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. In one of the last states to codify telemedicine, New Jersey’s Assembly Bill 1464 would enable clinicians to establish a valid physician-patient relationship via telehealth, require state health plans and private plans that cover state employees to reimburse at the same rate as in-person care, and prevent those plans from mandating an in-person visit before telehealth use. The bill also allows out-of-state healthcare providers to treat New Jersey residents via telehealth as long as they have a reciprocal medical license; New Jersey lawmakers enacted a rule in 2014 allowing doctors from other states to treat patients in New Jersey as long as the medical license they hold in their state aligns with New Jersey requirements.

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  • National Quality Forum Issues Draft Telehealth Framework

    Healthcare Informatics

    The National Quality Forum (NQF) issued a report that outlines a measure framework, with a prioritized list of measure concepts, and guiding principles for future telehealth measurement. NQF acknowledges that telehealth offers tremendous potential to transform the healthcare delivery system by overcoming geographical distance, enhancing access to care, and building efficiencies. This report is a project initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for NQF to convene a multi-stakeholder committee to recommend various methods to measure the use of telehealth as a means of providing care. The committee was charged to develop a measurement framework that identifies measures and measure concepts and serves as a conceptual foundation for new measures, where needed, to assess the quality of care provided using telehealth modalities. The goal of the project was to facilitate the identification of the most appropriate way to ensure clinical measures are applied to telehealth encounters in order to measure quality of care and to guide the future development of telehealth-related measures. Public comments on the NQF draft framework are due June 30. 

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  • Telehealth Adoption to Double by 2018

    Hospitals & Health Networks

    The number of U.S. health systems with consumer-service telehealth programs is on pace to nearly double from 2016 to 2018, according to findings from the Hospital & Health Systems 2016 Consumer Telehealth Benchmark Survey by Teladoc. Seventy-six percent of U.S. hospitals and health systems either have in place or expect to implement a consumer telehealth program by 2018. Drivers for the rapid adoption growth include the desire to improve access to care, improve care coordination, increase efficiency, prevent readmissions and expand population health programs. In addition, 69 percent of organizations that currently have consumer telehealth programs are planning to expand their offerings, and 76 percent of organizations without consumer telehealth indicate it is a high strategic priority for their organizations.

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  • New Jersey Moves to Regulate Growing Telemedicine Industry

    NJ.com

    An Assembly panel Monday voted to regulate the burgeoning tele-medicine industry in New Jersey that supporters say will enable medically fragile people to remain home rather than having to travel for appointments, and save money by cutting back on unnecessary emergency room visits. Doctors and some hospitals, such as the Virtua Health and the Inspira Health Network in south Jersey, already hold virtual appointments with patients, in a field that is already a decade old, medical providers told the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. But if the state Legislature ultimately passes (A1464), New Jersey would join 39 other states that have set standards on how these appointments are conducted and the prices that may be charged.

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  • How Technology Upgrades Sparked a Financial Resurgence at Two Rural Hospitals

    FierceHealthcare

    On his second day as CEO of Coteau des Prairies (CDP) Health Care System in Sisseton, South Dakota, Michael Coyle had to borrow $500,000 to make payroll. That was just the start of the hospital’s financial struggles. CDP is a 25-bed critical access hospital located about 160 miles north of Sioux Falls on the edge of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. When Coyle arrived in December 2014, the hospital faced an array of financial issues, most of which were tied to delinquent payments from Indian Health Services. Several years earlier, the hospital saw a massive increase of ER visits after the reservation demolished its hospital and replaced it with a medical clinic. Throw in an influx of Medicaid patients and lapsed training for billing and coders, and the hospital quickly found itself operating in the red by the time Coyle arrived.

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  • Telemedicine Legislation Takes Aim at Chronic Kidney Disease

    mHealth Intelligence

    The latest telemedicine legislation to appear on Capitol Hill seeks to make digital health a key component of treatment for chronic kidney disease treatment. The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act of 2017 (H.R. 2644), re-introduced last month by U.S. Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), would, among other things, loosen the restrictions on telemedicine to treat kidney patients in their homes. It’s one of a growing number of bills filed this year that seek to make telemedicine and telehealth a more acceptable standard of care, often by relaxing Medicare and Medicaid guidelines to improve access and reimbursement. Roughly 30 million Americans, or 15 percent of the adult population, are affected by chronic kidney disease. Of that number, more than 660,000 have kidney failure, and almost 470,000 are on dialysis. More than 193,000, meanwhile, have a functioning kidney transplant, which requires them to follow a very strict daily medication regimen. 

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  • Georgia Payer Pushes Telehealth to Replace Unnecessary ER Visits

    mHealth Intelligence

    A Georgia insurer is taking strong steps to promote telehealth as a replacement for most emergency room visits. Starting in July, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia will stop reimbursing for ER visits deemed to be unnecessary. The payer is recommending that its members use BCBSGa’s LiveHealth Online telehealth service, or visit the nearest urgent care or retail health clinic. "The cost of care's been going up so much faster than people's earnings,” BCBSGa President Jeff Fusile told Atlanta’s WABE public radio station.  “We have got to find a better way to do some of this stuff, taking some of that unnecessary spending out of the system.” The insurer is taking steps to ensure that its members know when they should visit an ER. According to a May 19 letter to members, the restriction won’t be applied to children under 13, Sunday or holiday visits or instances in which the member is more than 15 miles from the nearest urgent care clinic. 

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  • Telemedicine At Home: New Vermont Law Expands Health Insurance For 21st-Century Treatment

    VPR; Vermont's NPR News Source

    Health insurance in Vermont will soon be required to cover medical care delivered via telemedicine, even if the patient receiving the treatment isn't at a doctor's office. The University of Vermont Medical Center already works with Rutland Regional Medical Center to give Rutland patients access to UVM's health specialists without hours of driving, and officials say the program is a success. According to numbers from the UVM Medical Center, its specialists have given more than 550 neurology consults to patients in Rutland using telemedicine since the beginning of 2015, and just 15 of those patients required in-person follow-up care at UVM Medical Center. The rest completed their treatment in Rutland. 

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  • Mobile Health Units Put the Emphasis on Access for mHealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers around the country are taking a literal approach to mobile health these days. They’re customizing RVs, vans, buses and ambulances with telemedicine tools and wireless connectivity to bring healthcare to underserved populations, reduce time to treatment in emergencies and make life easier for schoolchildren and their parents. In Flagstaff, Ariz., a mobile medical unit affectionately called the “Big Orange Bus” is on the road almost every day of the week in this city of 70,000, visiting businesses, schools and homeless shelters and generally serving as a roving resource for North Country HealthCare’s outreach to underserved neighborhoods. 

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  • FCC's Net Neutrality Reversal Threatens Telehealth, Remote Monitoring and Data Sharing

    Fierce Healthcare

    Changes to net neutrality rules will have a significant impact on health IT innovation, particularly for rural providers, according to a group of informatics and public health experts. Under the new leadership of Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to overturn net neutrality rules established by the Obama administration. An overhaul would allow telecommunications companies to treat some businesses more favorably than others and raise connection fees for hospitals. That approach “threatens the well-being of many people, particularly those at risk for health disparities due to low income or rural residency,” a group of researchers from St. Louis University, the Medical University of South Carolina and Harvard University wrote in a post for Health Affairs Blog. 

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  • With New Texas Law, Telemedicine Passes an Important Milestone

    mHealth Intelligence

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s endorsement of new telemedicine regulations means the nation has finally agreed that a physician-patient relationship can be established through a virtual visit. With Abbott’s signature on SB 1107/HB 2697, Texas becomes the last state to allow physicians to connect with new patients via telehealth, rather than having to first meet in person. The action puts to rest a long-simmering debate between telemedicine advocates and healthcare providers over whether the telehealth visit can be treated with the same weight as an in-person visit. The new law also establishes that telemedicine visits have to be held to the same standards of care as in-person visits. 

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  • What Happens to Telemedicine if We Lose Net Neutrality?

    Healthcare DIVE

    The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 on May 18 to review the rules that regulate internet service providers. Over the following 90 days it will collect comments from stakeholders and the public before drafting new rules that would give the ISPs more control over which information got priority on their networks, effectively ending “net neutrality.” So, what happens to telemedicine without this oversight? Rural and underserved communities with fewer choices of ISPs will likely receive diminished care, at slower speeds and higher cost, than patients in more urban, affluent communities according to net neutrality proponents in the healthcare industry. Adding cloud image management provides more value for physicians and patients alike. But how do you know if you're ready to upgrade your PACS? Some provider groups see the situation as more dire. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated, “Establishing a system of paid prioritization is contrary to the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.”

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  • Texas Law Marks Turning Point in Telemedicine

    MedCity News

    Over the weekend, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law, changing the face of telemedicine in the state. With Abbott’s signature on Senate Bill 1107, physicians can now utilize telemedicine services with patients they haven’t met in person. This quashes an earlier requirement that physician-patient relationships had to be established with an in-person visit first. Texas was the last state to still uphold this requirement, according to Politico. Now that it’s abolished, direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies can expand their services across the nation. Though technically, there are still limitations on phone call-based telemedicine in Arkansas and Idaho. This is good news for companies like Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, American Well and MDLive. Teladoc is especially cheering. The telehealth provider has been entwined in a six-year legal battle with the Texas Medical Board regarding the scope of telemedicine in the Lone Star State.

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