Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Telehealth Tackles Medicaid’s Challenges with eConsult Program

    mHealth Intelligence

    A first-of-its-kind telehealth program launched in Connecticut two years ago is reducing unnecessary spending, improving care coordination for the hard-to-reach Medicaid population and making primary care doctors more confident in their abilities, simply by using online messaging to determine if specialist referrals are necessary. The eConsult program developed by Community Health Center in 2015 is now being used in some nine states, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, and has spawned a network of similar programs across the country. Its premise is simple: Give doctors an online resource to ask a few questions and perhaps get a little reassurance that they’re doing the right thing. 

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  • USDA Offers Distance Learning, Telemedicine Grant Opportunities

    AAFP

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a call for applications(www.rd.usda.gov) for parties interested in receiving rural telemedicine or distance learning grants. The competitive grants, to be awarded in fiscal year 2017, are made available through the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program,(www.rd.usda.gov) which provides funds to improve telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas. The USDA posted an announcement about the available grants in the May 16 Federal Register.(www.gpo.gov). According to that announcement, eligible applicants -- specifically, incorporated organizations or partnerships; other legal entities, including private for-profit or nonprofit corporations; state and local governments; federally recognized Indian tribes or tribal organizations; and consortia comprising these eligible entities -- have until July 17 to submit applications for competitive grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.

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  • Telemedicine Bill Advances in Senate After Conversion to Study

    News and Record

    Legislative supporters of putting telemedicine on equal footing with other health-care services have agreed to take a one-step-back approach in hopes of gathering more evidence to back their cause. House Bill 283 cleared the Senate Health Care Committee unanimously on Wednesday. It now heads to the Senate committee on Rules and Operations. Demand for telemedicine has grown in recent years, with the service particularly aimed at individuals who live in rural areas and/or who have difficulty getting to a hospital. The bill, with Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) as primary sponsor, was introduced March 8 with the requirement that insurers provide standard coverage and reimbursements for telemedicine and other digital services. The bill would have prohibited insurers from treating telemedicine differently solely because it is not provided as an in-person delivery of service or consultations.

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  • How Two NewYork-Presbyterian Pharmacists Tapped Into Telehealth to Improve Care for Transplant Patients

    FierceHealthcare

    Medication adherence is an important aspect of any patient's care. But the stakes are just a little bit higher when that patient has just undergone an organ transplant. For a transplant patient, missing an antirejection dose isn’t like forgetting your daily cholesterol pill. That’s one reason that two pharmacists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital decided to start seeing patients virtually—an approach that allows them to maintain continuity of care after discharge from the hospital while expanding the hospital's service to patients that would otherwise end up in the emergency department. Nicholas Jandovitz, PharmD, clinical pharmacy manager in the kidney and pancreas transplantation program and Demetra Tsapepas, PharmD, the program’s director of quality and research at the New York City-based hospital, recognized two problems facing all transplant patients: They often needed followup care and medication guidance after they were discharged, but the hospital lacked the clinic space to allow pharmacists to see patients in a designated outpatient setting. 

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  • Congress Considers Multiple Telehealth Bills

    Medscape

    Pressure within Congress to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth and remote monitoring services is approaching critical mass. Multiple bills have recently been introduced with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and a new bipartisan Congressional Telehealth Caucus has been formed in the House. The four members of congress who initiated that caucus — Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif), Gregg Harper (R-Mass), Diane Black (R-Tenn), and Peter Welch (D-Vt) — also on May 19 launched two related pieces of legislation, the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act and the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017. Both bills are being reintroduced from previous sessions of Congress in which they failed to advance.

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  • VT Legislature Approves Telemedicine Reimbursement Bill

    mHealth Intelligence

    Legislation that has been passed by the Vermont House and Senate aims to extend and regulate telemedicine reimbursement within the state. The bill includes new requirements for payers to reimburse telemedicine services, and modifies regulations related to how payers could charge beneficiaries. If Governor Phil Scott (R) signs the legislation, S.50 will come into effect on October 1, 2017 and will apply to Medicaid  and all other health insurance plans. Under the bill, the Department of Vermont Health Access (VHA) must ensure that both the treating clinician and the hosting facility are reimbursed for the services rendered, unless the health care providers at both the host and service sites are employed by the same entity. Along with guaranteeing clinician and facility reimbursement, payers will be required to treat telemedicine as if it were an in-person visit between a beneficiary and a provider. 

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  • Telehealth-friendly CHRONIC Care Act Passes First Senate Hurdle

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill that would boost telehealth services for chronic care treatment is headed to a Senate vote after breezing through a committee review this week. The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017 (S.870), sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), also got some good news from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO gave the bill a favorable score in its preliminary cost estimate, saying it would neither add to nor decrease Medicare spending over the next decade. The CHRONIC Care Act targets Medicare payment reform, a popular catchphrase in Washington D.C. these days. Its goal is to push Medicare costs down by improvement chronic disease management services and care coordination at home. 

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  • Telehealth Partnerships Focus on Innovative ROI in Upstate NY

    mHealth Intelligence

    For the two administrators responsible for guiding new telehealth projects to fruition across upstate New York, ROI doesn’t always mean reimbursement. Sometimes a new telemedicine program has to look beyond money for value. “You need to find partnerships,” says David Johnson, telehealth network program coordinator for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization. “And then you get them thinking about different forms of ROI. Oftentimes it’s the death of a project … when you bring up reimbursement.” Johnson and Katy Cook, telemedicine project coordinator for the Adirondack Health Institute, oversee some 33 active telehealth and telemedicine projects in the North Country Telehealth Partnership, covering a vast, 11-county expanse of New York that’s home to some of the most remote and underserved regions east of the Mississippi. Johnson and Cook will be talking about their challenges and successes at the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center’s regional conference next week. “Taking Telehealth Mainstream” will take place May 23 and 24 at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Andrew Solomon, the NETRC’s project manager, says the work down by Johnson and Cook is an example of how partnerships are springing up around the country to improve healthcare services and access where providers and funding are in short supply. The NETRC is part of the national Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, which consists of 12 regional and two national centers. 

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  • Providers Rally Around Medicare Bill Expanding Telehealth Services

    HealthData Management

    Now is an optimal time to update Medicare policies by taking full advantage of telehealth technologies and lifting the restrictions on reimbursement that are holding back access to care for patients with chronic conditions. That was the overriding message from providers who testified on Tuesday during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Medicare policies that can improve care for patients with chronic diseases. Specifically, witnesses voiced their support for a bipartisan Senate bill—the CHRONIC Care Act of 2017—designed to help Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions by, among other provisions, expanding access to telehealth services.

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  • Texas, The Last Frontier For Telehealth, Opens For Business

    Forbes

    The ability of telehealth companies to do business in Texas--the last major U.S. market stymieing the growth of video doctor consultations--cleared a key hurdle when a bill widening patient access cleared that state’s House of Representatives. The legislation opens a market of 28 million people to telehealth companies like American Well, MDLive and Teladoc, which have already been benefiting from expanding commercial coverage and employer health benefits administered and offered by large insurers like Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group and most Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. The passage in the Texas House last week is the latest legislative momentum for telehealth, which offers access to physicians and patients via smartphone, tablet or computer. Employers and private insurers are already embracing the trend as a way to make healthcare more convenient and avoid costly and unnecessary trips to the emergency room or a more expensive physician’s office.

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  • Rural Patients Gain More Telehealth Access in New WA Law

    mHealth Intelligence

    A new Washington state law to help expand patient access to telehealth services has earned the praise of the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA). The law, signed by the state’s governor Jay Inslee, clarifies the definition of “home” as an original treating site, allowing patients more leeway when receiving Medicaid reimbursements for telehealth services. Prior to the law’s passage, “home” only applied to patients who were accessing telehealth treatments in their literal homes. Now, “home” may apply to patients accessing telehealth treatment in “any location determined by the individual receiving the service,” the law says. This policy is set to begin on January 1, 2018. Adjusting the definition of home and the requirements for patients to receive telehealth services will help more patients access necessary healthcare, the WSMA said. 

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  • Houston's Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation Program Reduces Unnecessary Emergency Visits

    Government Technology

    For people living in cities, the constant sight of red lights and sound of sirens can be taxing. Their omnipresence can be particularly frustrating given that around 80 percent of calls to 911 aren't actual emergencies. To cut back on these expensive and often unnecessary trips to the hospital, cities are revamping their emergency services programs. Houston, a sprawling metropolis made up of more than 2 million people, is leading the charge. In 2014, the city launched a telemedicine service that has reduced 80 percent of the number of unnecessary emergency visits. The program is called ETHAN, which stands for Emergency TeleHealth and Navigation. It works like this: When paramedics arrive at the scene of an emergency and realize a patient doesn't need to be rushed to a hospital, they use a tablet to video chat with a specialist. For instance, a patient can chat with a nurse to get a prescription refilled or get an appointment scheduled on the spot with their primary care doctor for joint pain. 

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  • VA Wants to Make Telehealth Part of its Day-to-Day Business, but Says State Licensing Laws Stand in the Way

    Federal News Radio

    The Veterans Affairs Department has an ambitious long-term outlook for how it might dramatically expand the medical services it delivers to veterans through telehealth. As of now though, many of those plans are technically illegal because of state-by-state medical licensing requirements, and the department says that needs to change. VA is already regarded as a national leader in telemedicine. It spent $1.2 billion last year, up from $500 million in 2013, for a total of 2 million clinical encounters between veterans whose doctors were at distant locations. Overall, about 12 percent of the Veterans Health Administration’s enrolled patients got at least some portion of their treatment through telehealth. But the department says it wants to do a lot more.

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  • VA Turns to Congress to Expand Telemedicine

    CIO.com

    For all of its administrative challenges in providing essential healthcare, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been recognized for its successes in delivering telemedicine to reach rural and remote patients who might live hours from the nearest VA facility. But it could do more. Officials from the VA recently made their way to Capitol Hill to appeal for legislation that would grant the agency greater flexibility in providing remote health services to the military community. In particular, the VA is putting a "special emphasis" on improving the delivery of health services for veterans in rural and "underserved" areas, according to Dr. Kevin Galpin, executive director of telehealth services at the Veterans Health Administration. "Telehealth is mission-critical to the future of VA healthcare," Galpin told members of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, adding that the "potential to expand access and augment services is both vast and compelling."  "But to make this transition, the VA must operate in an environment that supports the type of advanced healthcare and service that these technologies enable us to provide," Galpin said. "This is where we need the help of Congress and a unified government that is fully aligned and working to fulfill our commitment to veterans." 

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  • FCC Seeks Input on Broadband Expansion for mHealth, Telehealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Federal officials are seeking advice from the telemedicine and mHealth community on how to improve broadband access for healthcare. The Federal Communication Commission and its Connect2Health Task Force are accepting comments through May 24 (reply comments are accepted through June 8) on “a variety of regulatory, policy and infrastructure issues related to the emerging broadband-enabled health and care ecosystem,” particularly in rural and underserved regions. Officials were quick to point out the phrase “heath and care” isn’t a typo. “We use the phrase ‘health and care’ deliberately … to reflect and include the broad range of participants in the emerging broadband health ecosystem, including providers (e.g., health systems, community health centers, clinicians, pharmacists, nutritionists, allied health professionals); public health and social service agencies and organizations; innovators and entrepreneurs; academic and research facilities; state and local policymakers; patients and their caregivers; as well as consumers who seek support to prevent disease and maintain optimum health,” reads the notice, posted earlier this month in the Federal Register. Broadband connectivity and access to high-speed Internet services are often listed as barriers to the advancement of telehealth, particularly in remote and rural regions. 

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