Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Rural Telehealth Use Rises, But Challenges for PCPs Remain

    mHealth Intelligence

    Rural telehealth use has surpassed adoption in other care environments, but primary care providers (PCPs) continue to face organizational barriers when pursuing the implementation of telehealth solutions. Research from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that PCPs practicing in a rural setting were three times more likely to have used telehealth in the past year than providers in urban settings. Telehealth users were more likely to be located in a rural setting (26 percent vs. 15 percent), to use an electronic health record (97 percent vs. 92 percent), and to work in a practice with more than six other providers (40 percent vs. 29 percent).  The most popular use-case among telehealth-enabled providers involved the treatment of chronic diseases. Fifty-five percent of the providers who used telehealth services in 2014 indicated they used it for diagnosis and/or treatment purposes, chronic disease management, follow-up, second opinions, and emergency care. 

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  • Direct-to-Consumer Telehealth: One Hospital’s Virtual Care Plan

    mHealth Intelligence

    A small southern Maine hospital is using direct-to-consumer telehealth to put the community back into its community health mission. York Hospital’s new Virtual Care service aims to give local residents a more convenient connection to the doctors they’ve known for so long. Tucked into Exam Room 7 at the hospital’s walk-in clinic on Route 1 – a newly opened facility carved out of a former auto dealership – the platform offers a pre-scheduled virtual visit with a York Hospital doctor during weekday hours for a variety of minor ailments. Erich Fogg, clinical lead for the hospital’s virtual care walk-in service and lead provider for the hospital’s network of walk-in sites, says hospital administrators have been planning the platform since 2014. They wanted a small, branded platform that could address common ailments – sore throat, fevers, aches and pains – that would otherwise require a visit to the doctor’s office, perhaps the ER, or maybe one of the independent retail clinics popping up across southern Maine and New Hampshire. “All of these people have physicians who live right in the area,” he says. “We wanted to give them something more convenient.” Administrators at the 79-bed hospital, serving Maine’s southern counties and some New Hampshire residents across the nearby Piscataqua River, see the telehealth platform as an important link in bringing value-based healthcare to its patients. 

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  • HEART Act Targets Medicare Limits on Rural Telehealth, RPM

    mHealth Intelligence

    A new bill making its way around Capitol Hill aims to improve access to telehealth services for people with heart disease and those in rural parts of the country. The Helping Expand Access to Rural Telehealth (HEART) Act, filed on May 3 by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), aims to improve access to telehealth in rural parts of the country and expand remote patient monitoring programs for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. Duffy, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, is targeting a familiar deterrent to telemedicine: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which sets strict limits on reimbursement in rural areas that curb the development of new RPM platforms. “People in rural areas across America have been left behind, and they deserve access to modern medical practices,” he said in a press release. “The HEART Act will help Americans improve healthcare quality and contact with healthcare professionals, regardless of where they live.” 

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  • Legislation Introduced to Eliminate Barriers for Telehealth Adoption in Rural Areas

    Healthcare Informatics

    Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) introduced legislation that aims to expand reimbursement for telehealth services to rural clinics and metropolitan statistical areas with 70,000 people or fewer and also adds Medicare coverage for remote patient monitoring of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Rep. Duffy, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, introduced the bill, called the Helping Expand Access to Rural Telehealth (HEART) Act, to eliminate barriers for the adoption of telehealth services in rural areas, according to a press release from Rep. Duffy’s office. “People in rural areas across America have been left behind, and they deserve access to modern medical practices. The HEART Act will help Americans improve healthcare quality and contact with healthcare professionals, regardless of where they live,” Duffy said in a statement. According to data provided in the press release, telehealth video consultations are expected to grow from 19.7 million in 2014 to a projected 158.4 million by 2020. The number of telemedicine visits provided to Medicare beneficiaries increased by 28 percent per year from 2004 to 2013, for a total of 107,000 visits provided in 2013. 

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  • Senate Bill Expands Use of Telehealth, Remote Patient Monitoring

    HealthData Management

    Six U.S. senators have introduced legislation seeking to remove barriers to the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring for Medicare beneficiaries. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the bipartisan Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017. “Telehealth is the future of healthcare. It expands access to care, lowers costs and helps more people stay healthy,” said Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the healthcare system for both patients and healthcare providers.” The CONNECT for Health Act builds on the provisions of another recently introduced Senate bill—the CHRONIC Care Act—which aims to improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic diseases by, among other provisions, expanding access to telehealth services.

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  • CONNECT Act Returns, Targeting Telehealth Barriers in Medicare

    mHealth Intelligence

    A long-anticipated bill to expand telemedicine and telehealth services in Medicare has made it to Capitol Hill, adding to the growing list of digital health legislation in the nation’s capital. The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017 was reintroduced this week by the same six senators who had initially introduced the legislation in early 2016.  The bill aims to remove roadblocks to telemedicine expansion in Medicare by giving providers the freedom to experiment with telehealth in alternative payment models and incentive programs and expand remote patient monitoring programs for chronic care, remote and underserved populations.

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  • New Telehealth Training Center Aims to be a National Resource

    mHealth Intelligence

    According to healthcare providers attending last week’s American Telemedicine Conference in Orlando, one of the biggest challenges to launching a telehealth network is finding qualified staff. It’s a problem the National Academic Center for Telehealth hopes to solve. Recently launched at Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University, NACT aims to be a national – if not international – resource for training healthcare providers on the skills needed to run a telehealth or mHealth program, as well as a “resource focused on developing and translating new knowledge about how to incorporate technology into the generation of health and the delivery of healthcare.” Judd Hollander, MD, associate dean for strategic health initiatives at TJU’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College, says health systems across the country have been struggling to find qualified people to run telehealth and telemedicine programs. 

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  • Telehealth Licensure Compact Goes Live for Physical Therapists

    mHealth Intelligence

    Physical therapists in 10 states will soon be able to use telehealth to expand their practices and give consumers more access to mobile healthcare services. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature on HB 1278 this week means 10 states have signed onto the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact, overseen by the Federation of State Boards for Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The compact makes it easier for therapists to be licensed in member states. Washington joins Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi as compact members. Five states – New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas – have seen compact legislation approved in one legislative chamber so far, and another three – Illinois, Florida and New Jersey – have introduced legislation. FSBPT officials say the member state will begin processing PT license applications as soon as Compact Commission, composed of officials from the member states, meets to develop bylaws and guidelines for implementation. 

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  • Texas Senate Passes Bill Easing Restrictions on Telemedicine

    Houston Business Journal

    Telemedicine in Texas involves licensed health care professionals (physicians, and physician assistants or advanced practice nurses properly supervised by, and with delegated authority from, a physician) providing medical care to patients physically located at sites other than where the professional is located by use of technology that allows the professional to communicate with and see and hear the patients in “real” time. Telemedicine services have been growing rapidly in the United States in part because it can significantly reduce the cost of health care by reducing travel times, staffing and overhead requirements. Additionally, many employers have started to integrate telemedicine services into their benefit plan to increase employee choice and reduce plan costs. 

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  • 6 Insights on State Telehealth Legislation, Reimbursement

    Beckers Hospital Review

    The Center for Connected Health Policy, a nonprofit telehealth policy resource organization, published its fifth annual State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies report. The report details telehealth policies, laws and regulations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. To prepare the report, the Center for Connected Health Policy analyzed state laws, administrative codes and Medicaid provider manuals through March 2017. Here are six report findings:

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  • VETS Act Takes Aim at mHealth, Telehealth Access for Veterans

    mHealth Intelligence

    Legislators on both sides of Capitol Hill have reintroduced a bill that would ease restriction on telehealth and mHealth for veterans, especially those in rural areas. The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 has been reintroduced by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). Companion legislation in the House is being submitted by Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.). “Iowa is home to more than 200,000 veterans, many of whom reside in more rural areas, distant from Iowa’s VA facilities,” Ernst, a National Guard veteran who first submitted the bill in 2015, said in a press release issued after she resubmitted the bill this week. “Telehealth offers another way in which we can provide veterans the care they need, including critical, and potentially lifesaving mental healthcare. The VETS Act will ensure that veterans can receive the timely and quality care they deserve from the comfort of their own homes.” 

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  • Pediatric Telemedicine Poised for Growth Spurt

    Media Health Leaders

    The use of pediatric telemedicine may soon be at a tipping point. A survey this by Nemours Children's Health System shows that while only 15% of the 500 parents who responded to an online query have accessed pediatric telemedicine, 64% plan to use it within the next year for common childhood conditions such as fever and respiratory ailments and for well-child visits. Overall, the percentage of parents who use telemedicine remains small. When compared with a 2014 survey by Nemours, however, the use of online doctors' visits has grown by 125%, and parents' awareness of telemedicine services has increased 88%.

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  • Payers, Providers Seek Common Ground on New Telehealth Services

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers are finding that telehealth reimbursement goes well beyond finding the right CPT code. With each state and even the federal government offering different and sometimes conflicting definitions for telemedicine and telehealth, a hospital or health system looking to lunch a digital health platform has to be creative in how it defines value. More and more providers, in fact, are taking it upon themselves to negotiate telehealth coverage with commercial payers. “There’s been some deliberate efforts … to align with [payers] and embrace cooperation on coverage and reimbursement,” says Nathaniel Lacktman, who leads the telemedicine and virtual care practice at the law firm of Foley & Lardner, LLP. “We’re noticeable moving toward that now.” The challenge lies in aligning what the provider wants to do with mobile health or telehealth technology with what the health plan wants to support. For example, a health system might want to create a program enabling patients to trade e-mails with their doctors, but would those conversations by covered by a bundled care plan or carved out as separate discrete medical events?  

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  • Medicare Still Lagging Behind on Telehealth

    Medscape

    Medicare has long been criticized for its narrow restrictions on the coverage and reimbursement of telehealth services. A new report to Congress by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that not much has changed over the years. Mandated by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the GAO report noted that Medicare and the US Department of Defense (DoD) trailed the Veterans Affairs (VA) system in their use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM). On the other hand, the report painted an optimistic picture of Medicare demonstrations and new care delivery models that, it said, might increase the use of telehealth in Medicare. 

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  • GAO Report: Telehealth Troubles Tied to Reimbursement Barriers

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers aren’t embracing telehealth and remote patient monitoring because they aren’t being reimbursed for those services, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO report, issued last week as part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, found that Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense used telehealth to treat 12 percent or less of their beneficiaries in 2014 through 2016, with less than 1 percent of Medicare beneficiaries using any telehealth services. Providers surveyed for the report cited “the potential to improve or maintain quality of care as a significant factor encouraging the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring,” but they rated “cost increases or inadequate payment and coverage restrictions” as either somewhat or very significant barriers to adoption. “Additionally, officials from another provider association described coverage as the single greatest barrier to the use of telehealth, adding that Medicare’s restrictions on the types of services covered by the program have prohibited its broader use,” the report found.

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