Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Defense Bill Expands Telehealth Services in TRICARE

    mHealth Intelligence

    A Defense bill that includes expanded telehealth access for active duty military personnel and veterans has been approved by Congress – minus controversial language that would have basically federalized telehealth doctors. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, which makes telehealth services available under the U.S. Defense Department’s TRICARE program, sailed through both the House and Senate after the controversial language in the Senate bill was stripped out. The initial Senate bill had mandated that the originating site for telehealth services – defined for such issues as licensure, reimbursement and liability – would be the physician’s location, rather than that of the patient. That drew the ire of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association and several pro-telehealth groups, who pointed out that such a law would enable physicians treating military personnel and veterans to skip state licensing laws when treating patients via telehealth. AAFP Board Chairman Robert L. Wergin, MD, had said the Senate version of the bill “portends a troubling scenario under which state licensing boards will lack the authority to discipline physicians who are practicing medicine within that state’s borders.” 

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  • Bill to Expand Telehealth in TRICARE Preserves State Licensure

    American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

    A bill passed by the House and Senate to expand telehealth services for active duty and retired military personnel and their families will maintain safeguards on state medical licensure, as the AAFP and other health organizations had called for. Because increasing access to care for veterans and their families is a priority for legislators, they added new telehealth benefits to the TRICARE program in the National Defense Authorization Act,(www.congress.gov) the annual spending authorization bill for the Defense Department. The final bill calls for telehealth services to be treated as if they were provided in a face-to-face office visit and without cost-sharing in the form of deductibles or copayments. Medical professionals can seek reimbursement for telehealth services for health evaluations, diagnosis, treatment supervision and monitoring of outcomes. The AAFP lent its support to the measure as long as it preserved state medical licensing laws. In the initial Senate version of the bill, telehealth services were considered to be only those furnished at the physician's location -- not the patient's -- for purposes such as licensure, payment and liability. Legislators agreed to remove that language from the final version at the urging of the AAFP and others. 

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  • Telemedicine for PTSD No Less Effective Than In-Person Therapy

    Fox News Health

    Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have difficulties making it to in-person therapy sessions may be able to get treatment that's just as good by videoconference. Researchers compared home-delivered prolonged exposure therapy - which helps patients confront memories and situations that trigger their symptoms - to the same treatment given in U.S. Veterans Affairs clinics, and found no difference in effectiveness. "The best treatment for PTSD, with the most empirical support, can be delivered at no loss of effectiveness, directly into a veteran's home, rather than having the veteran come into clinic," lead study author Ron Acierno told Reuters Health by email. "We can now save the travel time and bring the treatment right to them" if a veteran lives too far away to attend 12 to 15 weekly sessions, can't take off work or feels stigmatized coming into the clinic, said Acierno, a psychologist and researcher with the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

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  • Text Messaging Program Offers an mHealth Nudge to Busy Parents

    mHealth Intelligence

    A text messaging program is boosting engagement for a Minnesota health system’s youngest patients simply by reminding their parents to schedule well-child visits. More than 70 percent of the parents contacted by the Park Nicollet Health System have scheduled visits since the Minneapolis-based provider launched the mHealth messaging program in January. The program focuses on parents with children up to the age of 3. “We were noticing gaps in care with the pediatric well-child visits,” says Ali Salita, Park Nicollet’s project manager for clinical health support.  “There are so many recommended well-child visits in a short period of time, and many parents are not familiar with the well child standards and the importance of these frequent visits. It’s easy for parent to miss an interval – and subsequently miss valuable screenings, immunizations and provider education on growth and development.”
    “(R)eminding parents to schedule their children’s well-child visits has many benefits,” she says, noting the health system is working toward a standard of six visits within the first 15 months. “It helps prevent missed visits and gaps in care for the children. And it provides an opportunity to improve immunization rates in the state. Children receive most of their  immunizations during well-child visits.” 

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  • Health in Vulnerable Populations

    Federal Telemedicine News

    The American Hospital Association’s (AHA) www.aha.org “Task Force for Ensuring Access to Vulnerable Communities”, recently released a report outlining a menu of options for communities, hospitals, and policymakers to ensure that vulnerable rural and urban communities have access to essential healthcare services. The report discusses in detail the need for virtual care strategies to be used to help vulnerable communities. These communities are dealing with declining and aging populations, the need to provide additional access to primary care services, high rates for the uninsured or underinsured, cultural differences resulting in low education, plus dealing with environmental challenges that may hinder caring for vulnerable populations. The report specifically identifies telehealth and virtual care strategies as very promising options to help maintain or supplement access to health care in vulnerable rural and urban communities with problems recruiting an adequate healthcare workforce. 

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  • Michigan’s New Telehealth Law Requires Patient Consent

    mHealth Intelligence

    Michigan lawmakers have approved telehealth legislation that enables healthcare providers to use the technology with the patient's consent. S.B. 753, introduced in February by State Sen. Peter MacGregor, passed unanimously in the House on December 1 and in the Senate on December 6. It will become law in 90 days, making Michigan the latest state to set guidelines for telehealth. “This is a commonsense healthcare reform for a modern age,” MacGregor said following the bill’s passage. “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,” MacGregor added, noting the bill had been supported by groups including the Michigan Association of Health Plans, the Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Spectrum Health and Ascension 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.”

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  • Telehealth Can Work for Veterans Dealing With Depression

    mHealth Intelligence

    Veterans dealing with depression can be treated just as well with telehealth as with in-person care, according to a recent study. Studying more than 200 senior-aged veterans for one year between 2007 and 2011, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and other institutions found “little of no meaningful difference” in symptoms or patient satisfaction between care delivered in a clinician’s office and that delivered via video. The one difference lies in convenience, especially for elderly veterans. “Based on results of this study and prior research, telemedicine is a highly relevant option to address the needs of rural patients or those living in remote locations, while providing patient satisfaction and quality of life similar to that provided by in-person treatment delivered at clinics,” Leonard Egede, MD, director of the MUSC Center for Health Disparities Research, a VA physician and the lead author of the study, told Reuters. Engede and his team followed 241 veterans over the course of a year, randomly assigning some of the them to eight weeks of in-person counseling and others to counseling via phone and video monitor.

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  • mHealth Patch is Put to the Test at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    mHealth Intelligence

    Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital is launching a remote patient monitoring study to determine whether a smart patch can help physicians take care of patients at home rather than in the hospital. The hospital, part of the Partners HealthCare network, began enrolling roughly 60 patients this fall, and plans to scale up to 500 patients in early 2017. Eligible patients must be diagnosed in the hospital’s emergency department with exacerbation of heart failure, pneumonia, COPD, cellulitis or complicated urinary tract infection. Half of the patients in the study are admitted to the hospital for traditional treatment, while the other half are “admitted to home” - discharged with an RPM platform that includes biosensor patches designed by VitalConnect and personalized physiology analytics technology designed by PhysIQ. The lightweight, wireless patch continuously monitors vital signs and other data – such as heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, skin temperature, posture, step count and falls – and transmits that data back to clinicians.

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  • A New York Blue Braces For a Big Dose of Telehealth

    Internet Health Management

    A New York Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan is expecting some heavy-duty traffic when the health insurer rolls out digital doctor visits in January. The Blue Cross plan—Excellus Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which covers 1.5 million members in upstate New York—says it expects as many as 50,000 visits to a new soon-to-be launched telehealth service. In January, Excellus will roll out a telehealth program using the services of MDLive Medical Group, a telehealth platform developer and service provider based in Sunrise, Fla., with a network of 800 doctors. Excellus expects plenty of calls, says  senior vice president and corporate medical officer Martin Lustick. “The ideal method for having minor medical conditions addressed is to see your doctor,” Lustick says. “But if your doctor can’t see you immediately for an office visit, ask whether he or she can address the issue with telemedicine. And if that isn’t available, other telemedicine providers, such as MDLive, can address most of those common conditions and prescribe medicine when medically indicated.” Excellus is set to offer telemedicine visits to all plan members and members insured through Medicare Advantage. 

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  • Bipartisan Legislation Proposes Telehealth Solutions for Effective Chronic Disease Management

    The National Law Review

    Collaborative efforts between congressional offices and various health care stakeholders, as well as the feedback provided in response to the Bipartisan CHRONIC Care Working Group Policy Options Document released in December of 2015, have driven the Senate Finance Committee to introduce a draft of bipartisan legislation known as the CHRONIC Care Act, which seeks to modernize Medicare payment policies to improve the management and treatment of chronic diseases using telehealth. As a result of the collaborative efforts between congressional offices and various health care stakeholders, and the feedback provided in response to the Bipartisan CHRONIC Care Working Group Policy Options Document released in December of 2015, the Senate Finance Committee recently introduced a draft of bipartisan legislation known as the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes necessary to Improve CHRONIC Care Act of 2016 (the CHRONIC Care Act). The CHRONIC Care Act seeks to modernize Medicare payment policies to improve the management and treatment of chronic diseases using telehealth. Over the past several years, there has been increased attention by Congress and federal agencies on prevention, management and treatment of chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, as they are long-lasting and persistent health problems that require continuous, expensive care. 

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  • Senate Unanimously Passes Telemedicine Legislation

    mHealth Intelligence

    A telemedicine program born at the University of New Mexico is set to become a national model for pushing healthcare into remote and underserved regions. The Senate on Tuesday approved by a 97-0 vote S. 2873, the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act. The bill places UNM’s five-year-old groundbreaking Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) on a national stage, setting the wheels in motion for a national network of hub-and-spoke telemedicine platforms to provide education and collaboration opportunities for healthcare providers in hard-to-reach areas. “We’re now one step closer to supporting new ways to train health providers and deliver healthcare,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who co-sponsored the bill this past April with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), said in a press release. “Technology is changing the way medical professionals connect with each other and their patients.  Our bill capitalizes on this technology to give health professionals in hard-to-reach areas the specialized training they need and help them reach more patients.” “On a recent visit to southern Utah, I had the opportunity to visit a rural health center and speak to some of the families that rely on services included in the ECHO Act,” Hatch added in the release. “Some of these individuals had health conditions that required specialized care or could be managed much closer to home by health professionals they know and trust. By using technology to connect patients and providers, this bill will benefit Utah’s families by helping them receive the care they need, when they need it.  I’m grateful for the valuable input Utah’s health leaders have provided in crafting this proposal.” 

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  • How Do We Bridge the Gap Between Telehealth and Telemedicine?

    MedCityNews

    Telemedicine is changing the way we receive and deliver health care. But telemedicine isn’t new. Throughout history, mankind has studied and used various forms of the service. The actions that were eventually coined telemedicine have been around for centuries, even dating back to when the people of ancient Rome sent proxies to the temples where medical care was offered if their citizens were too old or too ill to go themselves. In more recent history, right around the 1960s, NASA pioneered significant advancements in telemedicine when it started planning to send American astronauts to space. Space travel required the ability to use the spacecraft and astronauts’ spacesuits to remotely monitor and diagnose health-related issues. However, after this creation, telemedicine innovation slowed. It wasn’t until the 2000s that innovation in this field resumed and the telemedicine industry commenced changing its identity and entering mainstream popularity. Telemedicine solves the issue of convenience and access to certain types of medical care that millions of patients struggle with every year. But time and technology have created new advancements in the remote delivery of healthcare, expanding beyond telemedicine and providing even greater convenience and higher quality care – what we now call “telehealth.” 

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  • Mayo Clinic Uses Emergency Telemedicine for Newborn Resuscitations

    HealthData Management

    The Mayo Clinic is using emergency video telemedicine to effectively assist community hospitals less familiar with advanced newborn resuscitation interventions during high-risk, complex deliveries. Mayo’s Division of Neonatal Medicine initially offered newborn telemedicine consultations to six of its health system sites, where local care teams used wireless tablets running HIPAA-compliant video conferencing software from Vidyo to communicate with neonatologists at Mayo in Rochester, Minn. Video consults are now conducted at all 10 of Mayo’s health system sites that deliver babies in the Rochester region. The technology enables neonatologists to “visually assess the babies and co-manage them together with local care teams more efficiently using video and improved communication,” says Jennifer Fang, MD, a Mayo Clinic fellow in neonatal-perinatal medicine. “With telemedicine now, we’re able to bring our neonatologists to the bedside remotely to really help guide these local care teams with complex deliveries.” The vast majority of babies are fine after delivery, but about 10 percent of newborns require some help breathing after birth, while 1 in 1,000 require more intensive resuscitation measures, Fang notes. Although these high-risk deliveries often present challenges to community hospitals, Mayo’s telemedicine consultation for neonatal resuscitation have improved access to neonatology expertise and prevented unnecessary transfers to facilities that offer higher levels of care, she contends. Over a 20-month period, Mayo conducted 84 newborn telemedicine consultations, with prematurity cited as the most frequent reason for the consult, followed by respiratory distress and need for advanced resuscitation. In more than 93 percent of 64 surveyed cases, the local provider agreed that the telemedicine consult improved patient safety, quality of care, or both.

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  • Senate Set to Vote on Legislation Advancing Use of Telehealth

    Modern Healthcare

    Industry experts have touted telehealth as a tool to improve healthcare access and quality, adding that the practice could save as much as $4.8 billion in annual healthcare spending. But while using technology to replace the in-person visit has gained credibility and reimbursement opportunities, it's also faced some challenges. The Senate has a chance to change that on Tuesday, when it is scheduled to vote on the ECHO Act, legislation aimed at better integrating Project ECHO, the pioneering telehealth model developed by the University of New Mexico, and other “distance health” models into health systems nationwide. The ECHO Act, introduced in April by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), would also boost federal research into the use of telehealth and into its potential to expand and improve healthcare. The law would require those findings to be published and HHS to issue recommendations based on them, as well as a toolkit of best practices for implementing telehealth models. Many providers and policymakers say that telehealth could bridge serious gaps in the U.S. healthcare system. It can improve care for rural populations and others in healthcare deserts—20% of Americans live in areas with shortages of healthcare providers—by making such care more timely and giving them access to specialists. 

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  • AMA Promotes Prescribing of mHealth Apps

    Medscape

    The American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted principles to promote the use of "safe and effective" mobile health applications and related devices in clinical care. Although the association acknowledges that the evidence base for mHealth apps is very small, its new policy provides guidance to physicians who have been reluctant to prescribe these apps to patients up to now. A 2014 survey found that more than a third of doctors were prescribing mHealth apps, but half of those physicians were just suggesting that their patients shop in an app store. Another survey in 2015 found that only 16% of physicians prescribed mHealth apps, according to a report in Medical Economics. One factor holding many doctors back is the lack of evidence for the safety and efficacy of most apps. Only about 260 studies have been conducted on mHealth apps, and there are roughly 63,000 of them now on the market, according to the publication.

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