Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • VA Wants its Doctors to Treat Veterans Anywhere With Telehealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Federal officials have unveiled a plan to give VA doctors the authority to treat veterans via telemedicine no matter where those veterans are located. In a ceremony attended by President Donald Trump this past week, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced the “Anywhere to Anywhere VA Healthcare Initiative,” which would allow VA doctors to connect with veterans in any state through a telehealth link. Shulkin earned praise from, among others, the American Telemedicine Association – which has scheduled him as a keynote speaker at its fall conference in the nation’s capital – and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), whose Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 seeks to give VA doctors that same authority. Shulkin said he wants to free up the VA to hire more healthcare providers in urban areas, where they’re in abundance, to be able to treat veterans living in rural and underserved areas. But he may face opposition from groups like the American Medical Association, which has opposed the VETS Act and argued that such efforts rob state medical boards of the right to govern and police their own doctors.

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  • New Jersey’s Telemedicine Law: What Providers Need to Know

    The National Law Review

    New Jersey has a new telemedicine law, recently signed by Governor Chris Christie. The law cements the validity of telehealth services in the Garden State, establishes telemedicine practice standards, and imposes telehealth coverage requirements for New Jersey Medicaid, Medicaid managed care, commercial health plans, and other State-funded health insurance. After a year of debate in the New Jersey Legislature, the bill (SB 291 now P.L.2017, c.117) unanimously passed both the House and Senate before going to the Governor’s Office. The law is effective July 21, 2017. The new law is quite lengthy, but we have summarized and explained the essential provisions below:

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  • Telehealth Expansion Would Hardly Change Medicare Costs, CBO Says

    Medscape

    The telehealth provisions of the Chronic Care Act of 2017 would have a relatively small effect on Medicare spending over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This bill is one of several measures with telehealth components that are pending in Congress. The Senate version of the legislation, S. 870, would expand the use of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, partly by lifting the geographic limitations that Medicare now imposes on these services. For example, the bill would increase the ability of accountable care organizations (ACOs) to receive Medicare payments for telehealth services, beginning in 2020. It would eliminate the geographic component of the originating site requirement and would allow ACOs to receive Medicare payments for telehealth supplied in a patient's home. The CBO estimates that this provision would increase Medicare spending by about $50 million from 2018 to 2027.

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  • Healthcare Deal Targets Telemedicine for Military Deployments

    mHealth Intelligence

    A Washington, D.C.-based health system known for its telehealth services to the maritime industry is bolstering its telemedicine platform to treat deployed military personnel around the globe. The partnership is the latest example of efforts by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to treat military personnel – both active and retired – and their dependents via telehealth. George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates (MFA), comprised of more than 750 physicians and 50 specialties, has announced a partnership with defense contractor SOSi International to create a telemedicine platform that can deliver emergency healthcare to personnel deployed in remote locations, including potential battlefields. 

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  • Trump Introduces New Telehealth Initiative For Veterans

    Washington Post

    President Trump joined Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to announce a new telehealth program for veterans on Aug. 3. "This will significantly expand access and care for our veterans, especially for those who need help in the area of mental health," he said.

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  • Telemedicine Laws Gain Momentum With Passage in 2 More States

    mHealth Intelligence

    Two more states now have telemedicine laws on the books, adding to the ranks of states clearly defining what can and can’t be called telehealth and telemedicine.  Minnesota’s new regulations became law on August 1. S.F. 1353, unanimously passed by the state’s Legislature and approved by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 17, defines telemedicine as “the delivery of healthcare services or consultations while the patient is at an originating site and the licensed healthcare provider is at a distant site.”  The simply worded law further states that telemedicine “may be provided by means of real-time two-way interactive audio, and visual communications, including the application of secure video conferencing or store-and-forward technology to provide or support healthcare delivery, that facilitate the assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education and care management of a patient's healthcare.”  

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  • Legislators Urge FCC to Open Up TV Airwaves for Telemedicine

    mHealth Intelligence

    Congress and telemedicine advocates are jumping on the bandwagon to open up so-called TV white space for telehealth and other uses. A bipartisan group of 43 members of Congress is urging the Federal Communications Commission to designate unused TV airwaves for the broadcasting of high-speed Internet to underserved parts of the country. The lobbying effort follows an announcement last month by Microsoft that it would use TV white space - unused UHV television band spectrum below the 700 MHz frequency range that enables wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings and trees - to bring Internet to millions of rural Americans and foster development of telehealth and other programs.

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  • How Technology Is Changing Nursing: The Impact of Telehealth

    Medscape

    Within the past decade, many advances in technology have been made available to help nurses and clinicians perform their jobs and care for patients more efficiently and safely. Consequently, nursing today isn't the same as it was 30 years ago. From such inventions as tablet computers and mobile electronic charts, to radio-frequency identification (RFID)-enabled devices, the healthcare landscape is becoming more advanced and efficient, and the field of nursing has adapted along with these advances.  Naturally, many of these technologies did and still do require education, training, and a period of adoption for nurses to fully embrace them; implementation doesn't simply happen overnight. Evolving care delivery processes in such areas of the hospital as intensive care units (ICUs), emergency/trauma treatment, and recovery rooms have created a need for nurses with advanced clinical skills and technical savvy. Today, nurses are adapting along with the industry to take advantage of new career opportunities and expand their roles across the care continuum.

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  • Congress is Coming at CMS From All Angles With Telehealth Bills

    mHealth Intelligence

    With the CONNECT for Health Act showing no signs of positive momentum on Capitol Hill, telehealth-friendly legislators are trying a new tactic: Introduce several telemedicine bills aimed at different facets of Medicare, with the hope that at least one becomes law. The latest proposal, offered by U.S. Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), takes a more evidenced-based approach to telehealth policy. The as-yet-unnumbered bill directs Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to pick and choose which telehealth services are either reducing wasteful spending or improving clinical outcomes – or both – and allows him to carve out Medicare restrictions that hinder the service’s expansion. “The bill … aims to increase telehealth services through Medicare by removing some of the arbitrary barriers to access currently in place,” Johnson said in a joint press release with Matsui. “Increasing access to telehealth isn’t a partisan issue; rather, it’s a service that has proven to be very beneficial to many rural Americans – and it should be expanded. Instead of placing restrictions on telehealth coverage through Medicare, we need to do the opposite and allow for more people the opportunity to utilize this emerging technology.” 

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  • As Senate GOP Fumbles Health Reform, Telemedicine Delivers Better Access To Health Care

    Forbes

    The U.S. Senate’s push to tackle health reform is far from over, and the struggle is real. While the Congressional GOP has good intentions to restore more health freedom at the state level, they have so far failed to reach a consensus. Meanwhile, market forces and the states are already working to make health care access more convenient, price transparent, and affordable. Telemedicine, for example, is a multibillion dollar industry and a leading innovation in the health care arena. Defined as “the use of technology to deliver health care, health information, or health education at a distance,” telemedicine helps people connect more quickly to their primary, specialty, and tertiary medical needs. Patients can submit questions about non-urgent health issues and receive responses from a distant medical provider within hours without having to sacrifice quality of care. Online vision tests can be just as accurate as an in-person optometrist appointment, and renowned Centers of Excellence are partnering with rural hospitals to assist in monitoring their intensive care units (ICUs). Telemedicine’s ability to expedite the delivery of care has proven to fill in some of the health industry’s pervasive gaps, such as the ongoing rural provider shortage.  

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  • New Bill Seeks to Expand Medicare Reimbursement for Telemedicine

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill to expand Medicare coverage for telehealth services that has been kicked around on Capitol Hill since 2013 is once again in Congress’ hands. U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) has re-introduced the Telehealth Enhancement Act (H.R. 3360), which – according to a summary of the 2015 version – would expand the list of healthcare sites eligible for Medicare reimbursements for telehealth to include urban critical access hospitals, sole community hospitals, home telehealth sites and counties with populations of fewer than 25,000 people. The bill, introduced on July 24, did not include text as of July 27. Harper, whose co-sponsors on the bill are U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), first introduced the bill in 2013, then amended it in 2015. “Telehealth saves money and helps save lives,” Thompson said when the bill was first introduced in 2013. “By expanding telehealth services, we can make sure the best care and the best treatments are available to all Americans, no matter where they live.” This latest bill is one of a growing list seeking to compel the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand its acceptance of telehealth. Whether any of those bills makes it to law remains to be seen, but one did receive House approval this past week and could be headed to passage later this year.

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  • Telehealth’s Future Success Requires a Paradigm Shift

    RHI hub

    Like kids who ask “Are we there yet?” when starting a long journey, the destination of telehealth’s adoption into mainstream medical practice has been elusively far off. In the 1960s and 70s, the true potential of telepractice was demonstrated when technology made video conferencing from remote rural clinics feasible. However, technology at that time was very expensive, which was the first obvious roadblock to mainstream integration. The 1980s brought dramatic reductions in cost, size, and reliability of video technology, but bandwidth emerged as a significant roadblock. In the 1990s, fiber began to replace copper, and the Internet replaced direct connection, so the roadblock of bandwidth began to resolve. With technology being resolved, telehealth hit the detour of state-based licensing. Just as we figured out how to drive cross-country with state-based driver’s licenses, the problem can and is being resolved by regulatory agreements. However, it has taken longer than expected because medicine is much more complicated than “red means stop” and “green means go.” 

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  • Telehealth Licensure Compact for Nurses Gets the Green Light

    mHealth Intelligence

    Nurses in 26 states will soon be able to practice telehealth in multiple states under one license. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation last week making his state the 26th to join the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), triggering enactment of a compact that allows registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs) to have one multistate license, with the ability to practice in person or via telehealth in both their home state and other eNLC states. Launched roughly 18 months ago by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the eNLC is the third such agreement designed to enable healthcare practitioners to practice across state lines, either under one license or through an expedited process of applying for license in multiple states. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact for physicians, overseen by the Federation of State Medical Boards, went live on April 6, though it has been plagued by a dispute with the FBI over access to criminal records for background checks. To date, some 25 states have signed onto that compact, but only a few are processing license applications. 

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  • Vermont’s New Telemedicine Law Expands Insurance Coverage, Bans Recording

    JD Supra

    Vermont health care providers and patients can now enjoy a revamped, and significantly improved, telehealth commercial insurance coverage law. Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed S. 50 into law on June 7, 2017, expanding commercial coverage and payment parity in the Green Mountain State by requiring Vermont Medicaid and private health plans to pay for telemedicine services at any patient originating site location rather than limiting coverage to services provided while the patient is located in a health care facility. The law also imposes some additional telemedicine practice standards, including a unique prohibition on recording telemedicine consultations. The state’s prior telehealth coverage law required Vermont Medicaid and commercial insurers to cover telemedicine-based services only if the patient was located at a health care facility, such as a hospital.

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  • Telehealth Plays Growing Role for Patient Access to Care in Rural America

    HealthData Management

    While about 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, only 9 percent of physicians practice there. That healthcare reality is forcing those areas of the country to consider expanding telehealth services as a potential solution for overcoming provider shortages and the lack of patient access to care. A House panel heard testimony last week on the current utilization of telemedicine in rural America and how increasing the use of that technology could fill the care gap and benefit those communities. “For the 62 million Americans living in rural and remote communities, access to quality, affordable healthcare is a major concern,” said David Schmitz, MD, president of the National Rural Health Association. According to Schmitz, telehealth technology can support rural delivery of care but depends on adequate development of broadband Internet into rural and remote areas of the country. Likewise, he argued that rural providers must invest in necessary technological infrastructure and systems, emphasizing that government grants and private investment in technology “can increase the flow of new dollars into rural economies, empowering local resources to further healthcare infrastructure.” 

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