Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Can Tech Speed Up Emergency Room Care?

    The Wall Street Journal

    The emergency-room doctor needed to take a closer look at the stitches above Gilbert Winter’s eye. “Let me just zoom in a little closer,” said Peter Greenwald, an emergency-medicine physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan. “I just need you to hold your head as still as possible.” Dr. Greenwald was talking through a computer screen. Mr. Winter—a 75-year-old construction-company consultant who had suffered a number of injuries from a fall the previous week—was sitting in a small, private room in the hospital’s emergency department, elsewhere in the complex. The next frontier in digital health may be one of the most unlikely: the emergency room. The Emergency Department Express Care program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine is among the first telemedicine programs of its kind in the emergency department of an academic hospital. The goal: to reduce waiting times and get patients with non-urgent cases in and out of the emergency room efficiently without compromising care. ‘What’s the number-one complaint of patients in the emergency room?” says Rahul Sharma, the emergency physician-in-chief at Weill Cornell. “Wait time.” For patients who have opted to use the Express Care program—only offered to patients with minor injuries or complaints—the total amount of time spent in the ER has dropped to 35 to 40 minutes, from an average of 2 to 2.5 hours, he says. 

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  • What Are the Effects of Telemedicine in a Safety Net setting?

    MedCityNews

    How well does telemedicine work in a safety net healthcare setting? Pretty well, it turns out. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed the effect of a teleretinal diabetic retinopathy screening program on both screening wait times and screening rates in the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. The LAC DHS, which serves underinsured and uninsured patients, is “the largest publicly operated county safety net health care system in the United States,” the study points out. It serves more than 800,000 patients each year. Diabetic retinopathy, the top cause of working-age adult blindness in the United States, impacts more than 5.3 million Americans, according to a study in The Lancet. And it isn’t rare in the Los Angeles area — a study in Ophthalmology found the prevalence of DR among diabetic Latinos ages 40 and up in Los Angeles was just under 50 percent. The JAMA Internal Medicine study also notes that the retinal exam wait times for newly diagnosed diabetes patients in LAC DHS have been at least eight months, if not longer. 

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  • Report: Telehealth’s Economic Impact Could Have Broad Reach in Rural Communities

    FierceHealthcare

    Telehealth could save hospitals in rural parts of the country an average of $81,000 annually. But that economic impact would likely spread throughout the community, cutting down on travel costs for patients and boosting revenues for other healthcare providers. The estimates were published in a report (PDF) by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, which used economic data from 24 rural hospitals in four states to calculate the potential costs savings of a telehealth program for community members and hospitals. Although hospitals would likely see costs decline after reducing the number of full-time providers and utilizing specialists in urban areas, patients would see dramatic reductions in travel costs and lost wages. Community members would save an average of $24,000 each year in travel costs, and recoup nearly $17,000 in lost wages for patients traveling farther to receive specialty care. 

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  • Physicians Sour on States’ Telehealth Implementation Efforts

    mHealth Intelligence

    Some 44 percent of U.S. doctors say their state hasn’t done a good job implementing telehealth, while only 15 percent feel their state has done well or very well. The results come by way of the online physician community SERMO, which recently polled more than 1,650 U.S. physicians on their state’s efforts at supporting telemedicine and mobile health programs. A similar poll among 1,831 international physicians found 19 percent rating their country favorably in its telehealth implementation, while 43 percent had negative reviews. Doctors in most states opted for a middle-of-the-road evaluation of their state’s efforts, casting a vote for “fair.” Still, in almost every state, negative opinions outnumbered positive ones. 

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  • UPMC Launches Statewide Access to Emergency Telemedicine Services

    FierceHealthcare

    One of Pennsylvania’s largest integrated healthcare institutions is expanding an initiative that would provide all state residents access to emergency services through a telemedicine app.  After launching a desktop version for members of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Plan last year, UPMC is expanding the telemedicine initiative to patients throughout the state, according to a press release. Through a partnership with American Well, UPMC launched AnywhereCare, a mobile app that connects patients to emergency clinicians to treat low-risk ailments that require urgent care. Kim Jacobs, vice president of consumer innovation at UPMC Health Plan, said the app offers 24/7 access to the system’s clinical staff and typically costs about half as much as a healthcare plan copay—ranging from $10 to $49 for a visit. “The platform allows patients to use technology to be seen by doctors more quickly,” Jacobs said. "AnywhereCare also helps to free the backlog in doctor's offices, urgent care facilities, and hospital emergency rooms and allows doctors to spend more time with patients who suffer from chronic conditions. Nearly 90% of patient issues are resolved during the AnywhereCare virtual visit and do not require follow-up care.”

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  • Telemedicine: Reimbursement in fee-for-service, quality models

    Urology Times

    Payment under a risk management system or alternative payment model is based on an overall cost borne by the group or institution receiving the contract. A focus on overall costs borne by the caregiving group will have to include at least some focus on outcomes under the majority of payment systems that have appeared under this model.In these models, if telemedicine proves to be cheaper to provide and can demonstrate at least clinical equivalence, it is hard to envision that groups will not adopt telemedicine to the greatest extent allowed. Groups are already using telephone triage and follow-up to ensure compliance with prescribed treatment.These groups will be forced to some degree to prove the efficacy of the services provided. Collecting data on what works and how much can be provided in an effort to grow the services provided with lower expenses will be important for marketing, patient buy-in, and safety measures. 

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  • The Timely Promise of Telehealth

    University of South Carolina

    Your 2-year-old wakes up feverishly hot with a chest rash — early Sunday morning when the pediatrician’s office is closed. But after answering a few questions online from a health care professional and texting a photo of the rash, a diagnosis is made and a prescription dispensed. Welcome to SmartExam, a service offered by Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group and one of several examples of telehealth’s arrival on the health care scene. In addition to 24/7 health care consults, the power of broadband is making its way into health education, psychiatric evaluation and stroke assessment. It’s one of the many ways clinical faculty at the University of South Carolina are using technology and innovation to change the way health care is delivered and improve the wellbeing of the state’s rural population. “Telehealth is changing the lives of patients and health care providers, allowing more collaborations and partnerships in real time to improve overall health and quality of life,” says Dr. Meera Narasimhan, professor and chair of clinical neuropsychiatry and behavioral science and associate provost for health sciences at the University of South Carolina.

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  • Telemedicine Saves Patients Time, Money

    University of California, Davis

    As a national leader in the use of telemedicine — broadly defined as videoconferencing between patients and clinicians in different geographic locations — UC Davis analyzed its own clinical records over the past 18 years to precisely measure the benefits of enabling patients to remain in their hometowns while meeting with physicians working at the university’s Sacramento campus. According to the researchers, by using telemedicine for clinical appointments and consultations, its patients avoided travel distances that totaled more than 5 million miles. Those patients also saved nearly nine years of travel time and about $3 million in travel costs. Savings estimates were based on patient travel to a telemedicine center near their home compared to the travel that would have been required had they come to UC Davis Health in Sacramento for care. The study also calculated the amount of greenhouse emissions that were likely avoided by reduced miles driven. 

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  • Tapping Telehealth for Complex Cases

    Modern Healthcare

    Shortly after Thanksgiving last year, Ron Cobbley woke up with a stiff neck. Ibuprofen did nothing to help the South Jordan, Utah, resident. Soon the pain became so intense that Cobbley headed for the emergency room at Intermountain Healthcare's Riverton Hospital. Several MRIs and CT scans later, Cobbley's doctors noticed a staph infection nestled where his collarbone meets his sternum. The doctors ordered surgery. While recovering, Cobbley, 74, turned on his hospital room's high-definition television, outfitted with a zoom camera, speakers and microphones, to meet with Dr. Todd Vento, Intermountain's medical director of infectious diseases telehealth services. Vento conducted the post-operative evaluation from his office at the system's Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, its flagship campus. He examined Cobbley's incisions and spoke with the local care team to discuss medications. 

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  • Defining Digital Health: What Makes an ‘Effective’ mHealth Program?

    mHealth Intelligence

    How does the healthcare system measure the effectiveness of a digital health program? The Connected Health Initiative, which last year sought a consensus definition for asynchronous telemedicine, is ready to tackle more confusing mHealth concepts. At the top of the list is a better understanding of how healthcare defines digital health success. “We want to dig down to how the process of medicine is done,” says Morgan Reed, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based coalition, a two-year-old offshoot of ACT | The App Association that’s been tasked with exploring the intersection of healthcare and technology. “A lot of that work is going to be definitional.” Reed says the healthcare ecosystem is rife with words and phrases that mean different things to different stakeholders – mHealth, mobile health, digital health, connected care, eHealth, telehealth and telemedicine, just for starters. 

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  • At the Intersection of Cancer Treatment and Technology, It’s More Evolution Than Revolution

    MedCityNews

    For the first time at SXSW, a series of panel discussions in the health track zoomed in on cancer — Connect to End Cancer. The themes that dominated tended to be the role of technology such as telemedicine and data from connected devices, the role of 5G technology and technology’s shortcomings. But concerns over what Trump’s FDA nominee will do with the FDA cast a long shadow over parts of the discussion. Here were some of the more interesting conversation points across a couple of the panel discussions I attended.
    Telemedicine, telehealth and the impact of 5G: Most people don’t think of cancer treatment and telemedicine intersecting but as Rebecca Kaul, Houston-based MD Anderson Chief Innovation Officer noted, cancer center patients tend to have a varied geographical base. “We think telemedicine is highly important — two-thirds of our patients come from outside of Texas.”

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  • Senator’s Priority Bill Could Require Coverage for Telehealth Services

    York News Times

    Each year senators are given the opportunity to select one bill to designate as their personal priority. This year, the bill I chose to designate is LB92, a bill to require certain health carriers to provide coverage for certain services delivered through telehealth. LB92 advanced out of committee unanimously and has no fiscal note, meaning it will not have a cost burden on the state of Nebraska. Under this legislation, health insurance companies are required to cover any service offered through telehealth that is already covered for an in-person consultation. Currently, even though many doctors have embraced telehealth technology, some have been reluctant to utilize it because they do not know whether insurers will reimburse them. This reimbursement policy is already in place for state Medicaid, and it only makes sense that we would extend it to those covered by individual or group health insurance plans.

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  • NC Legislation Backs Reimbursements for Telemedicine

    Winston-Salem Journal

    A requirement that insurers provide standard coverage and reimbursements for telemedicine and other digital services was introduced in a bipartisan House bill last week. Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, is the primary sponsor of House Bill 283. Telemedicine has grown in demand in recent years, particularly aimed at individuals who live in rural and suburban areas and/or who have difficulty getting to an urban hospital campus. It is defined for the bill’s purpose as “the use of interactive audio, video or other electronic media for the purposes of diagnosis, consultation or treatment.” That includes emails, phones and texts. The bill has been sent to the House Health committee. If approved there, it would go the House Insurance committee. The bill would be effective Oct. 1 if signed into law and apply to insurance contracts issued, renewed and amended after that date. 

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  • mHealth-based Workplace Wellness Programs Face Congressional Scrutiny

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill quietly moving through Congress could have a significant impact on workplace wellness programs that use digital health tools. Opponents say HR 1313, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, could undermine mHealth-based employee wellness programs and severely hamper digital health research by stripping away protections against the improper use of an employee’s genetic information. Proponents of the bill, meanwhile, say the legislation would “untangle conflicting, burdensome and unnecessary rules that are currently jeopardizing the ability of employers to offer quality wellness programs and the opportunity for employees to earn significant savings on their health insurance premiums while also improving their health.” On its face, HR 1313 would enable employers to include genetic testing as part of a workplace wellness program, as long as the tests are voluntary. Opponents say the bill would strip away protections put in place by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) on the collection of digital health information about employees and their families through wellness programs.

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  • Why the Utilization Conversation in Telemedicine is Bigger Than Dollars and Cents

    MobiHealth News

    A study published in Health Affairs and conducted by the RAND Corporation made a big splash this week with a bold claim: That telemedicine doesn’t actually reduce healthcare costs because the increased convenience leads to increased utilization, which ultimately costs more than in-person care would have. The study looked at claims data from a cohort of 300,000 employees with access to Teladoc through their employer. Researchers compared a cohort of telemedicine users to a cohort of non-telemedicine users and found that in the telemedicine users, visits to primary care doctors barely decreased, meaning that the Teladoc visits were mostly additive (visits that otherwise would not have occurred), rather than substitutive (visits that otherwise would have occurred in person). They found that 88 percent of visits were additive, and only 12 percent replaced in-person visits. The result: telemedicine cost the payer $45 per patient more than a plan without telemedicine would have.

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