Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Telemedicine Gains Popularity in Schools, Connects Ailing Students with Doctors

    The Washington Post

    In late November, on the first cold morning of the season, a second-grader at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, Md., had trouble breathing during recess. When the school nurse, Veronica DeSimone, examined the girl, she heard wheezing in her chest and determined that the child was having an asthma attack. The nurse would have administered relieving medication, but the girl’s parents hadn’t yet signed a permission form or delivered their daughter’s medicine to the Howard County school. The girl’s father, the only parent available, was at work, at least an hour away. There was no time to wait for him to come get his daughter. Not long ago, DeSimone would have had to call an ambulance to take the child to the emergency room, forcing her to miss the rest of her classes that day. Instead, DeSimone set up an online video and audio link to a pediatrician at Howard County General Hospital’s emergency room. Having previously received permission from the girl’s parents to participate in the school’s telemedicine program, DeSimone examined her with a digital stethoscope, which allowed the pediatrician to listen to the girl’s lungs remotely. The doctor quickly confirmed DeSimone’s diagnosis and directed her to administer the necessary medicine. Within 10 minutes, the child was breathing normally and back in class. Telemedicine, increasingly used in prisons, nursing homes and remote areas, is becoming more common in schools.

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  • 1 In 5 People Would Switch Doctors For Video Visits

    Forbes

    Two-thirds of consumers say they’ve delayed seeking care for a health problem. People do this because it costs too much (23%), it takes too long to see the doctor (23%), they think the issue will go away on its own (36%), or they’re just too busy (13%), according to a survey by telehealth company American Well. Of the people who have delayed seeing a doctor, almost a third were facing a serious health issue, the survey found. Ignoring a serious problem can create health complications, and even skipping regular health care can lead to difficulties if a minor issue escalates. What might help these consumers get their problems dealt with? Video doctor visits, the survey suggests. Two thirds of consumers would see a doctor over video—a practice that could cut down dramatically on the amount of time it takes to get care. Consider that the average in-office visit takes 121 minutes, including 101 minutes of commute and waiting room time—only 20 minutes with the doctor. 

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  • Indiana Lawmakers Wade Into the ‘Ocular Telehealth’ Battle

    mHealth Intelligence

    Some Indiana lawmakers want to amend the state’s telemedicine law to allow online eye tests and the prescription of contact lenses and glasses. The proposal may face a stiff battle. State lawmakers passed telemedicine rules last year that prohibited online eye exams and prescriptions after opposition from optometrists fearing they’d lose business to online companies. And South Carolina is being sued by one such company after it passed legislation last year banning online exams and prescriptions. Indiana House Bill 1331, submitted by State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Indianapolis), “(r)emoves the restriction on the prescribing of ophthalmic devices through telemedicine and sets conditions on when a provider may, through telemedicine, prescribe medical devices.” It would also require the state’s optometry board to regulate “ocular telemedicine or ocular telehealth” no more restrictively than it does for in-person services. “We all know that we have an access to healthcare services problem in Indiana,” Kirchhofer told Indiana Public Media. “So, in some parts, finding a healthcare provider is difficult in rural areas.” 

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  • Telemedicine Study Cites Tele-ICU’s Positive Impact on Patients

    mHealth Intelligence

    A year-long study of telemedicine programs at 17 hospital ICUs around the country has found that the tele-ICU concept has a direct impact on patient health. Presenting at the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s 46th Critical Care Congress this week in Hawaii, Dellice Dickhaus, MD, FCCP, director of operations for Advanced ICU Care, reported that a telemedicine platform helped reduce the average patient’s ICU stay by more than a third, saving more than 26,000 ICU days across the 17 hospitals.  More importantly, she said, the tele-ICU model of care reduced mortality rates by an average of 29 percent, allowing almost 390 patients to live longer than they would have lived in an ICU without access to telemedicine. Other aspects of the study indicated patients in an eICU were treated to better care coordination and management practices. 

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  • Wisconsin’s New Telemedicine Rules Approved By The Medical Examining Board

    The National Law Review

    Last month, the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board (MEB) approved new rules for the practice of telemedicine. For roughly nine months of 2016, the MEB Telemedicine Subcommittee worked through details of the new Med 24, ultimately offering a streamlined version of the first set of rules proposed in 2015. The new rules now await review by the Governor’s office, the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules and then move to the Wisconsin State Legislature for final approval. These final steps of the rulemaking process typically take a few months to accomplish, meaning the new rules could take effect by mid-2017. Provisions of Wisconsin’s new telemedicine rules primarily focus on the safety and relationship of the patients and physicians. Key components to accomplish safe medical interaction with patients who are not physically present include:

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  • Idaho to End Telehealth Restrictions for Abortions

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth advocates are cheering the end of a legal battle in Idaho over whether healthcare providers could use virtual visits to treat women seeking an abortion. Planned Parenthood has announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the state over two laws passed in April 2015. One, the Telehealth Access Act, allows providers to prescribe medications during a video consult with a patient, but adds one line specifically excluding drugs used to induce and abortion. The second law requires that a physician be present with the patient during an abortion. Under terms of the settlement, Idaho lawmakers will repeal the latter law and amend the Telehealth Access Act to eliminate the telemedicine drug restriction by the end of 2017. "Women in Idaho deserve the right to have access to the safest, highest quality healthcare,” Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, said in a press release. “These misguided laws do just the opposite by creating unnecessary hurdles to safe and legal abortion that are not grounded in science, but instead rooted in politics." 

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  • 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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  • 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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