Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • One in Five Consumers Would Switch to a Doctor that Offers Telehealth Visits

    PR Newswire

    American Well, the leading telehealth company and partner to more than 70 U.S. health systems, today released the results of its Telehealth Index: 2017 Consumer Survey which found that 20 percent  of consumers would switch their current primary care provider (PCP) if another PCP in their area offered telehealth visits, among other findings. American Well commissioned Harris Poll to conduct two surveys online in late 2016 to measure consumer perceptions and experiences with telehealth. Among those who have a PCP, 65 percent are interested in seeing their PCP over video. Parents with children under 18 are even more likely to say they're interested, with 74 percent interested in seeing their PCP through telehealth. 20 percent of consumers are willing to switch to a PCP that does offer telemedicine visits."Consumers are clearly interested in more convenient access to healthcare – and increasingly, they are even willing to switch providers to get internet video service. Not only that, but consumers are willing to try telehealth for many needs – from chronic conditions to post-discharge follow up," said Mary Modahl, Chief Marketing Officer, American Well. "Health systems and provider groups must take note; if you haven't already, 2017 is the year to put a secure telehealth platform in place." 

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  • Telehealth in New Jersey Hindered By a Lack of Awareness

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers looking to launch a telehealth platform should be reminded to first make sure their potential patients know what it is and what it can do. That’s the dilemma facing New Jersey lawmakers, who are grappling with new legislation to regulate telehealth even as a recent survey finds that most New Jersey residents have never used it. Conducted by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute (NJHCQI) and Rutgers University’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, the recent survey of some 772 New Jersey residents found that only 16 percent have received healthcare through telehealth. And while a majority of residents surveyed say they would be comfortable using telehealth for some services, like prescription refills or an online consult to see if an in-person visit is warranted, they’re less willing to use an online platform to address an urgent medical condition – 62 percent were either “not very comfortable” or “not comfortable at all” with using telehealth for emergency care. They were also evenly split on using telehealth for therapy or counseling, and only 53 percent were very or somewhat comfortable with sending and receiving personal health information via telehealth. 

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  • Small Hospitals Turn to Telemedicine for ER Services

    mHealth Intelligence

    A small hospital on Prince Edward Island may turn to telemedicine to keep its emergency department open 24 hours a day. Officials with Health PEI, Prince Edward Island’s island-wide health system, are discussing a virtual visit platform for Kings County Memorial Hospital, a 30-bed community hospital in Montague. The hospital was forced to reduce its emergency room hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. last year. That decision didn’t sit well with local residents. Last July, Montague’s town council voted to support a local businessman’s bid to launch a telemedicine pilot at the hospital. "The technology is available, is well-proven, we're not re-inventing the wheel," Ray Brown told CBC News, estimating the project would cost $20,000 to $28,000. "We're simply taking the best of technology that is available elsewhere in the world. If you become sick on the space station, you're seen immediately by a doctor via telemedicine … I'd like to see the same services here in Montague." Many small and rural hospitals across North America are struggling to stay afloat, facing competition from consumer-facing online telehealth platforms, retail health and urgent care clinics. Just this month, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Cornwall, N.Y. and Baptist Hospital in Orange, Calif., shut down its emergency department due to a decline in business. 

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  • mHealth Study Uses Sensors, Analytics to Detect Sickness Before it Happens

    mHealth Intelligence

    mHealth wearables that continuously monitor vital signs may soon be able to detect sickness before the user even becomes sick. That’s the gist of a study of fitness monitors and other wearables conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine and recently published in PLOS Biology. And it points to the potential of an integrated mHealth, precision medicine and AI-enhanced platforms that can identify changes in health patterns before they occur. The Stanford team, led by Michael Snyder, PhD, a professor and chairman of the university’s genetics program, captured nearly 2 billion biometric signs from 43 participants, including data from wearable sensors and taken from lab tests. Participants wore between one and seven devices that could capture more than 250,000 measurements a day. According to the study, the Stanford team used these measurements to establish a baseline for each participant, measuring patterns in heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, activity and sleep, calories used, weight, blood oxygen levels and exposure to x-rays and gamma rays. The study also factored in environmental and other outside factors that could affect a person. When the wearables picked up variations in those baseline readings, researchers were tipped to the fact that the user’s body was reacting to something unexpected. For example, elevated temperatures and heart rate combined with increased levels of C reactive protein in blood tests might indicate someone is dealing with an inflammation, which could indicate an infection, autoimmune disease, even the presence of cancer cells. 

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  • mHealth Programs Aim to Reach Patients Before they Need the ER

    mHealth Intelligence

    Mobile health platforms, be they kiosks, consumer-facing telehealth portals or virtual care stations, are often seen as an antidote to the overcrowded Emergency Department. Now a Seattle health system is using mobile care coordination teams to reach seriously ill homeless people before they end up in the ER. A first-of-its-kind project launched in 2014 by Harborview Medical Center and the Seattle/King County Health Care for Homeless Network has helped more than 100 homeless people get the palliative care they need before they show up at the hospital and in need of hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncompensated care. The mHealth program connects these people with Medicare- or charity-funded services like cancer and chronic care treatment. “It’s really necessary that people be taken care of where they are,” Daniel Lam, MD, director of inpatient and outpatient palliative care services at Harborview, part of the UWQ Medicine health system, told Kaiser Health News. In a report issued last June, the program, funded by a $170,000 grant, has cut ER visits by 25 percent and halved hospital stays for patients treated for at least six months.

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  • Mobile Telestroke Units to Hit the Road in Chicago

    mHealth Intelligence

    Chicago is taking telestroke directly to the patient, with the deployment over the next few months of two specially equipped mobile vans. Northwest Medicine Central DuPage Hospital is scheduled to launch the first vehicle this month, and Rush University Medical Center is expected to have its unit on the road within two months. Each looks like an ambulance, and carries a portable CT scanner, supplies of the clot-busting drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) and a telemedicine link to the health system. While in-hospital telemedicine platforms have been shown to improve the diagnosis and treatment of stroke cases in small and rural health systems, they only work when the patient is in the hospital or clinic. Recognizing that someone suffering a stroke needs treatment as soon as possible, some health systems are experimenting with mobile telestroke units, especially in heavily congested or remote areas where transport could take an hour or more. 

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  • Telemedicine Success Requires an Alignment of Incentives (and Attitudes)

    mHealth Intelligence

    The physician at the head of a recent study on eICU benefits says the biggest challenge facing healthcare providers adopting telemedicine these days isn’t the technology. It’s the attitude.“If you apply the technology the way it was designed (to be applied), it can make a difference,” says Craig M. Lilly, MD, director of the eICU program at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “But if you don’t have collaboration, it’s not going to work. Then you have … relative antagonism.” Lilly, one of the acknowledged experts in the advancement of telemedicine services in critical care environments, recently concluded his fourth analysis of the eICU or tele-ICU model of care. His study, commissioned by Philips, found that a tele-ICU or eICU program with centralized bed management control can increase case volume by as much as 44 percent and improve contribution margins by almost $53 million.Lilly and Brian Rosenfeld, vice president and chief medical officer of Philips Hospital to Home and a former Johns Hopkins clinician who participated in some early studies on the eICU concept, say past attempts to create a telemedicine platform in the ICU failed because they put clinicians in the smaller, more rural “spoke” hospital at odds with those in the larger hospital charged with overseeing them via the telemedicine platform.

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  • The Benefits and Challenges of Telehealth for Specialists

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth’s potential has always revolved around bringing the doctor to the patient, no matter where each are located. While the concept most often applies to acute or primary care providers, its success is often more visibly demonstrated in specialty care. By definition, specialists offer more advanced care than primary care doctors. Not uncoincidentally, their numbers are also a lot smaller. They also tend to be clustered in urban areas, where the patient pool is largest, and near large health systems, where the opportunities for teaching, research and collaboration are greatest. That rule doesn’t apply to their patients. People with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart failure and COPD are just as likely to live in rural or underserved areas, where lack of access to healthcare exacerbates their condition. In fact, oftentimes those living in rural and underserved areas tend to need specialists more often because they haven’t been able to manage their condition. 

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  • Telehealth to the Forefront

    Lexology

    Largely overlooked in the 900+ page 21st Century Cures Act (the “Cures Act”) signed into law on December 13, 2016, was a directive from Congress for further study into the use of technology for the delivery of health care services.1 A second bill signed into law the following day – the ECHO Act – detailed additional research to be conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the use of technology to connect urban and rural health care providers.2 These studies, coupled with efforts by other federal government agencies, suggest that there may be more significant governmental support for the adoption and reimbursement of telehealth practices in the near future.

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  • Most Health Execs Say Payers Should be Forced to Pay for Telemedicine

    Managed Healthcare Executive

    Traditionally, telemedicine has been used in a provider-to-provider setting with very limited reimbursement options because of the fee-for-service model, says Randy Parker, chief business development officer for MDLIVE. "However, as the healthcare system transitions to the value-based care payment structure, telemedicine will become an affordable option for health systems and plans to meet or exceed incentive payment scoring outcomes, therefore allowing reimbursement to expand rapidly, according to experts," Parker says. Managed Healthcare Executive’s 2017 Technology Survey found that over half of the more than 120 respondents (62.2%) believe that the federal government should mandate that payers pay for telemedicine services. The full survey findings will be released in February. “Telemedicine is the cure to much of our healthcare challenges—it offers access to care regardless of geographical location or urban/rural setting; it offers an affordable care option in the midst of consumers being more heavily burdened with healthcare costs that consistently eat away at disposable income; and it offers quality of care that is consistent with care received in in-person settings,” says Parker. 

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  • Intermountain Turns to Telehealth to Better Manage Antibiotics

    Modern Healthcare

    Healthcare organizations are using telecommunication technology in many innovative ways to help reach goals. The latest involves a tool that allows some rural hospitals to curb excessive or improper use of antibiotics—a common problem across the healthcare industry. Intermountain Healthcare, which has 21 hospitals, allows patients at four of its smaller hospitals to consult with infectious disease specialists through video and phone conferencing. The program also provides antibiotic stewardship program support to participating hospitals' staff members. The system has nearly a dozen small hospitals across Utah and Idaho—many of which lack access to a physician specializing in infectious disease. Only one has a formal antibiotic stewardship program, as the newly required Joint Commission programs are called, according to a blog post by Dr. Edward Stenehjem, an infectious disease expert at the system's flagship, Intermountain Medical Center, in Murray, a Salt Lake City suburb. According to a report published this summer in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, just 39% of more than 4,100 hospitals surveyed had a fully developed antibiotic stewardship program. The Intermountain program was conceived as a service for inpatients and their physicians – either hospitalists in the larger hospitals or primary care physicians in the smaller ones, but it’s “bled over” into ambulatory care, Stenehjem said. Physicians requesting a consult with a specialist call an 800 number, which emails a consult request to the receiving specialist, who typically returns the phone call in 10 to 20 minutes.  

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  • Michigan Telehealth Law Requires Patient Consent Prior To Services

    Health IT Outcomes

    Michigan lawmakers have unanimously passed a bill requiring physicians “consult with a patient or obtain the patient’s consent” prior to providing telehealth services, according to mHealth Intelligence. The bill, S.B. 753, now heads to Governor Rick Snyder’s office for approval and will take effect 90 days after it is signed into law. One of critics biggest concerns of the rise of telehealth services has been it undermines the traditional doctor-patient relationship and lowers the quality of care for patients. This bill is one step toward ensuring standards are not relaxed for patients receiving remote care. S.B. 753 was introduced last February by State Senator Peter MacGregor, who said, “This is a commonsense healthcare reform for a modern age. Society has never been more connected, yet a patient’s ability to see a medical professional is becoming more and more constrained as hospital wait times grow. This bill would help improve access to care, which could lead to healthier patient outcomes. “Telehealth could transform healthcare in Michigan. It allows healthcare professionals to extend their reach beyond a corner office to meet patients where they are. It enhances access to and use of healthcare in our state, reduces costs encourages competition and, most importantly, could lead to healthier lives.” The bill was supported by a number of groups including the Michigan Association of Health Plans, the Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Spectrum Health, and Ascension Michigan.

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  • A Doctor Appointment on Video: Telemedicine Comes to Michiana

    South Bend Tribune

    Modern medicine is about to become more modern — and more convenient — for many Michiana patients, thanks to telemedicine. Today, South Bend-based Beacon Health System launches its live, secure video visits program to meet urgent care needs of patients with minor symptoms and ailments. With a cost of $49 without insurance — a fraction of the cost of a face-to-face urgent care center visit, consumers can get medical attention for certain illnesses without traveling, spending time in a waiting room, or taking time off work. All that would be needed is a computer (smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop) with a camera, and an internet connection. Android and Apple smartphone users will need to download a free app from either Google Play or the Apple Store. Laptop, tablet and desktop users will visit www.beaconhealthsystem.org/connect. Patients can then be walked through the experience online. Beacon will have physicians, licensed in Indiana and Michigan, available 24/7 for this new service. Among the numerous medical problems appropriate for a video visit are cold and flu symptoms, eye infections, urinary tract infections, minor sprains, and low back pain. The doctor determines whether in-person medical appointment is needed instead. If necessary during the video visit, the doctor can prescribe medication — non-controlled substances — and have the prescription sent to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice. 

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  • President Obama Signs Schatz-Hatch Tele-Training Bill Into Law

    Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) Press Release

    President Barack Obama signed into law the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). This law will increase access to high-quality health care in hard-to-reach regions. “Technology has the potential to transform the way we train doctors and deliver health care,” said Senator Schatz. “This law will help connect primary care providers in underserved areas with specialists at academic hubs, making it easier for medical professionals to access the continuing education they need to provide high-quality health care to more people.” Although nearly one-fourth of the population lives in rural areas, only about 10 percent of physicians practice in these hard-to-reach regions. People living in rural areas have higher rates of some chronic diseases and many face high transportation costs when they need to visit a doctor. The ECHO model is an innovative continuing medical education program that uses interactive videoconferencing to link specialist teams with primary care providers in rural and underserved areas.

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  • 21st Century Cures Act a Boon to Telehealth, Experts Say

    Healthcare IT News

    The 21st Century Cures Act, enacted this week, gained attention by allocating $6.3 billion for electronic health records, precision medicine, mental health and to fight opioid abuse. Yet a less-publicized provision in the nearly 1,000 pages of legislation promises to have a significant impact by increasing access of Medicare beneficiaries to telehealth services. The legislation requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to report to Congress on the current and potential uses of telehealth in the Medicare program and to assist Congress in its ongoing assessment of Medicare coverage of telehealth services. Specifically, the Act puts a focus on the “originating site” requirement for telehealth usage under Medicare. Under current rules, the originating site where the patient is located at the time of the telehealth encounter must be a certain type of healthcare facility, located in a rural area. 

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