Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • NQF Unveils Quality Measurement Framework Plan for Telehealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth and telemedicine can make a positive impact on the nation’s healthcare system if they demonstrate improvement in health outcomes, processes and cost, quality measures are widely accepted and the definitions of measurement are consistent. That’s the gist of a National Quality Forum report issued Aug. 31, which aims to set a national framework for measuring and supporting success in telehealth and telemedicine. 

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  • Medicare Spending on Telehealth Increases, But Barriers Remain

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers may be using more telehealth and telemedicine than ever before, but Medicare Is still a significant barrier to growth. An analysis of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services’ 2016 payments for telehealth and telemedicine shows a strong uptick in total reimbursements, claims submitted and originating site claims, but the total is still a small fraction of CMS’ total payments of $600 billion-plus and nowhere near what the federal government anticipated spending some 15 years ago. That difference between actual use and potential use is pushing a groundswell of support to change how CMS reimburses for digital and connected health technology. Aside from several letters calling on CMS to loosen the purse strings, more than a half-dozen bills have surfaced in Congress seeking those changes. Those efforts are bolstered by the numbers released last month. An analysis by noted telehealth attorney Nathaniel Lacktman of Foley & Lardner, drawing upon data first reported by David Pittman in Politico, finds that CMS paid out $28,748,210 in telehealth and telemedicine claims in 2016, up 28 percent over the $22,449,968 shelled out in 2015. The number of claims, meanwhile, rose 33 percent, from 372,518 to 496,396. Those numbers represent a continued upward trend. Last year, Medicare payments for telehealth and telemedicine increased by 25 percent over 2015, while the total number of claims jumped 27 percent.

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  • Massachusetts Health Systems Lobby for Telehealth Parity, State Support

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers in Massachusetts are urging state officials to make telehealth more accessible to meet a growing lack of access to mental health services. At a recent roundtable, representatives of several health systems lamented that the state doesn’t support telemedicine parity, and noted that patients in need of behavioral health often end up in a hospital ER before they can see a doctor. Several bills before the state Legislature target telemedicine and telehealth coverage, including one sponsored by State Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) that would force payers to cover telemedicine as they would in-person services. But despite strong mHealth, telemedicine and telehealth programs in health systems like Partners Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital and UMass Memorial Medical Center, among others, state legislators have been slow to support the technology. "On the one hand, we have the technology, but we don't have the payment and regulatory support to do that," Karin Jeffers, who heads the six-clinic Clinical & Support Options in western Massachusetts and serves on the board of the Association for Behavioral Health, told the gathering, as reported by the Worcester Business Journal.

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  • Is Telemedicine the Future of Medicine?

    Medscape

    Medscape held a Medicine 3.0 town hall event on Technology, Patients, and the Art of Medicine on July 20, 2017. Following are excerpts from the panel discussion.
    Eric J. Topol, MD: The question is, where does telemedicine fit in? This takes the patient away from the physical. What do you think about telemedicine, Abraham?
    Abraham Verghese, MD: My colleagues at Stanford have something called a digital health clinic. They offer patients a mix of coming in person or connecting electronically, obviously, depending on the situation. As I understand their data, while you would have thought that young people would've picked the telemedicine, the digital connection, to [my colleagues'] surprise, they actually liked to come [in person] more often; whereas the more seasoned, older patient did not want to deal with the parking, the validation of the sticker, and all of that stuff and was much more likely to make use of [telemedicine]. I think the mix is great. I'm actually all for it.

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  • mHealth App Targets Healthcare Access Barriers for Immigrants

    mHealth Intelligence

    The European Union is testing an mHealth app designed to help immigrants easily access healthcare services. The digital health tool targets a prevalent problem – language barriers.Dubbed Project KRISTINA, the app answers healthcare questions in a user’s own language, or interprets body language and facial expressions. It’s designed for immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East and was tested this summer at health centers in Spain. “Migrants who arrive in European countries may not be familiar with the health system at all,” said Leo Wanner, the project’s lead researcher, in an article in the EU magazine Horizon. “Our agent would be able to assess their problem based on their age, location, gender, and other things – so it can tell them in natural language where they need to go.” A second version of the app targets an even more specific use case: elderly Turkish immigrants living in Germany. That app is designed to communicate in German and Turkish and offer advice on managing dementia and health eating habits.

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  • Telehealth Offers a Vital Resource to Maine’s Island Residents

    mHealth Intelligence

    The success of telehealth has always been closely tied to the idea of bringing healthcare to those who have problems with access. To the 700 or so residents of several islands off Maine’s Downeast region, that success is tied to a video link with an onshore clinic and the 75-foot, steel-hulled vessel that makes twice-monthly runs up and down the coast. It’s all part of a “big jigsaw puzzle” for healthcare, says Sharon Daley, RN, a Missouri native who launched the nonprofit Maine Seacoast Mission’s telehealth program some 17 years ago and now directs the multi-faceted program out of Bar Harbor. “Going off island is extremely expensive,” she says. “So we have to make do with what we have.”

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  • CMS Reimbursing For Telemedicine Even As It Scales Back Programs

    mHealth Intelligence

    In a bit of good news-bad news for the telemedicine industry, federal officials said they will reimburse healthcare providers for their telemedicine expenses in a bundled payment program – even as they announced plans to scale back that program and end two others. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will reimburse for telemedicine services used in a bundled payment program for hip and knee replacement surgeries, a move that could spur adoption of remote monitoring and telehealth-enabled physical rehab platforms for providers using the program. But CMS also announced plans to cancel mandatory bundled payment programs for cardiac care and some hip and femur fracture patients, both slated to launch in 2018, while making the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CCJR) model, now in use in 34 regions, voluntary in 33 markets where it had been scheduled to go live next year. The rule also makes the program voluntary for all low-volume and rural hospitals in appropriate geographic areas. 

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  • Healthcare Consumers Show Mounting Interest in Virtual, On-Demand Care

    FierceHealthcare

    The majority of consumers are interested in some kind of virtual medical care, particularly following a hospital stay, according to a new survey. Sixty percent of broadband households say they are interested in remote care options, an indication that strong potential exists within the virtual care market moving forwards, according to portions of a  survey released by Parks Associates. The firm plans to present the full findings at the Connected Health Summit in San Diego at the end of August. Most respondents were interested in remote care following a hospitalization, although there was also notable interest in managing chronic conditions and routine checkups. Seven in 10 broadband households said they were also interested in visiting physician services. Additional data provided to FierceHealthcare indicates 40% of respondents are interested in communicating digitally with their medical professional, but just 20% want to correspond via text message.  

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  • New Jersey Authorizes Telemedicine Services

    The National Law Review

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law Senate Bill S291 (the “Act”), which authorizes New Jersey health care providers to offer telemedicine services. New Jersey had previously been one of the few states that had not expressly authorized telemedicine services. This alert discusses providers’ responsibilities under the Act, including establishing a proper provider-patient relationship, permitted technology and record-keeping policies. The Act permits health care services to be provided remotely through technological means, as long as a proper provider-patient relationship has been established. A proper provider-patient relationship may be established without an initial in-person visit, but must include identification of the provider and patient, review of the patient’s medical history and available medical records by the provider prior to an initial encounter with the patient, and the provider’s determination that he/she will be able to meet the same standard of care for the patient with telemedicine services as would be provided if the services were rendered in person. If the same standard of care cannot be met, the provider must direct the patient to seek in-person care.

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  • Telemedicine Could Help Medicaid Patients With Specialty Access

    mHealth Intelligence

    New research indicates telemedicine consults for specialty referrals could improve much-needed access for Medicaid populations. It also could offer support to an innovative telehealth platform now being used in nine states to connect doctors, Medicaid patients and specialists online. That conclusion comes out of a study, reported in the Aug. 14 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine, which found that specialty access standards adopted by some state Medicaid programs did not make specialty care more accessible for beneficiaries. Researchers instead suggested “more innovative solutions,” such as a digital health platform enabling beneficiaries to meet specialists online. “One way to make specialty care more available is to facilitate electronic or telemedicine specialty consultation,” Mitchell H. Katz, MD, of the Los Angeles Department of Health Services, wrote in an accompanying editorial. “Whether time synchronous (i.e. patient and physician are connected audibly and/or visually at separate locations) or dyssynchronous (electric consultation sent by a primary care physician to a specialist who responds in a matter of days) these alternative type of consultations allow patients to receive rapid specialty advice without the need for traveling and typically at lower cost.” Katz also highlighted a significant barrier to telemedicine consults: reimbursement.

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  • Alabama County Commission to Tackle Telehealth Engagement Issue

    mHealth Intelligence

    An Alabama county commission is reversing its decision to end a telehealth program for almost 400 employees, saying rising healthcare costs are more damaging than low engagement. The Morgan County Commission rescinded its decision last week to cut ties with MD Live, which serves the county’s roughly 390 employees for $14,000 a year. The commission had originally decided – unanimously - to end the contract because only 15 people used the service last year. But with the self-insured county due to close the fiscal year (ending Sept. 30) some $800,000 in the red in healthcare costs, commissioners reversed course, saying they’d rather keep the telehealth program going and tackle the engagement issue head-on.

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  • Telehealth Stands to Gain from Anthem’s ER Policy Expansion

    mHealth Intelligence

    Anthem is expanding its strategy of denying payments for unnecessary ER visits, a move that could push more consumers across the country toward telehealth or mHealth services.  The insurer, which administers Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states, launched the initiative this past July in Georgia, saying members should use the payer’s telehealth service or visit an urgent care or retail clinic rather than visiting a hospital for a non-emergency health issue. Similar strategies are in place in Kentucky and Missouri. Now Anthem is targeting Indiana. Officials say their state plans, covering some 1.1 million residents, pay for about 200,000 ER visits a year, costing millions of dollars. And those numbers are growing almost 8 percent a year. “What we’ve seen over the last three or four years is a gradual, increased use of the emergency room,” Dr. Joseph Fox, medical director for Anthem’s Indiana operations, told the Indianapolis Business Journal. “And some of those visits could be performed at a lower-cost site of service.” According to Anthem, an ER visit costs about $1,200 on average, compared to $190 for a visit to an urgent care center, $125 for a trip to the doctor’s office and $85 for an appointment at a walk-in clinic at a pharmacy. Consumer-facing telehealth programs, meanwhile, generally charge between $50 and $80 for an online visit.

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  • New Legislation Expands the Scope of Telemedicine in New Jersey

    The National Law Review

    In July of 2017, Governor Christie signed legislation that will expand the scope of telemedicine practice in New Jersey.[1]  Some of the highlights of the legislation include the following:  The law provides that unless specifically prohibited or limited by federal or state law, a health care provider who establishes a proper provider-patient relationship may remotely provide health care services to a patient through the use of telemedicine and may also engage in telehealth as may be necessary to support or facilitate the provision of health care services.

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  • VA Wants its Doctors to Treat Veterans Anywhere With Telehealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Federal officials have unveiled a plan to give VA doctors the authority to treat veterans via telemedicine no matter where those veterans are located. In a ceremony attended by President Donald Trump this past week, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced the “Anywhere to Anywhere VA Healthcare Initiative,” which would allow VA doctors to connect with veterans in any state through a telehealth link. Shulkin earned praise from, among others, the American Telemedicine Association – which has scheduled him as a keynote speaker at its fall conference in the nation’s capital – and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), whose Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 seeks to give VA doctors that same authority. Shulkin said he wants to free up the VA to hire more healthcare providers in urban areas, where they’re in abundance, to be able to treat veterans living in rural and underserved areas. But he may face opposition from groups like the American Medical Association, which has opposed the VETS Act and argued that such efforts rob state medical boards of the right to govern and police their own doctors.

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  • New Jersey’s Telemedicine Law: What Providers Need to Know

    The National Law Review

    New Jersey has a new telemedicine law, recently signed by Governor Chris Christie. The law cements the validity of telehealth services in the Garden State, establishes telemedicine practice standards, and imposes telehealth coverage requirements for New Jersey Medicaid, Medicaid managed care, commercial health plans, and other State-funded health insurance. After a year of debate in the New Jersey Legislature, the bill (SB 291 now P.L.2017, c.117) unanimously passed both the House and Senate before going to the Governor’s Office. The law is effective July 21, 2017. The new law is quite lengthy, but we have summarized and explained the essential provisions below:

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