Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • In the Northeast,Telehealth Gets Creative - With Good Results

    mHealth Intelligence

    From a Maine clinic providing healthcare-by-boat to remote islanders to a health system in New York’s Finger Lakes region worried about travel costs and safety, telehealth comes in many ways, shapes and forms in the Northeast. n fact, the region has become an ideal test-bed for the latest trends in mHealth and telehealth, says Danielle Louder, of the eight-state NorthEast Telehealth Resource Center. “There are programs out there that are seeing some remarkable outcomes,” says Louder, director of technology-based initiatives for the Augusta, Me.-based NETRC. “Some of the work we’re seeing has kind of been unprecedented.” The NETRC is one of 14 such centers scattered across the nation, 12 of which cover designated regions and two of which provide nationwide support for technical and policy issues. The centers are designed to help anyone – from providers to entrepreneurs to local governments – looking to launch, scale or maintain a telehealth program.

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  • Rural Clinics Turn to Telehealth to Combat Addiction

    Healthcare IT News

    An older, unemployed man with chronic back pain recently visited Robert Devereaux, MD, a family physician in this Southwest corner of Virginia. Devereaux recalled that months earlier, during a routine exam, he found crushed fragments of painkiller pills inside the patient’s nose. Though he refused to prescribe more, Devereaux worries that the man is still getting the drugs and has not recognized his problem or gotten treatment for his addiction. That story is common here. “There are a lot of patients in denial. … It’s a lot of families that have suffered horribly from this.” And their need for help has not been addressed. “We don’t have enough psychiatrists,” he said, which is also true about addiction specialists. “The mental health issues aren’t going to go away.” But some health professionals as well as the federal government think they may have a possible solution: using telemedicine to connect patients in need by video chat with faraway physicians who know how to treat addiction. 

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  • Strong Patient Demand for Telehealth Motivated by Convenience

    mHealth Intelligence

    The convenience factor is a major driver for patients investigating the use of telehealth to consult with their providers, according to a survey by the American Telemedicine Association and WEGO Health. The poll of 429 patients, conducted at the ATA’s Fall Forum Event in New Orleans, found that 22 percent of participants had used a video conferencing tool to communicate with their healthcare provider.  While half of those users said that their provider had offered a telehealth option to them, the other 50 percent had actively requested a remote consult with their clinician. Patients engaged in between one and four telehealth consults during the prior 12 months, and did not believe that the quality of a remote consult differed significantly from an in-person visit.

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  • USDA Funds Telemedicine Projects in 16 States

    Advance Healthcare Network

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is investing in 18 projects in 16 states to use communications technology to expand access to healthcare, substance misuse treatment and advanced educational opportunities.  “These investments will help provide better health care and educational opportunities for rural residents,” Vilsack said. “Hospitals, schools and training centers across the country are successfully using telecommunications to deliver quality educational and medical services. Telemedicine, for example, can help treat patients who are struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders that disproportionately affect rural areas by allowing rural hospitals to connect with resources in other health care facilities across the country to better diagnose and treat individuals.” In January, President Obama tapped Secretary Vilsack to lead an interagency effort focused on the rural opioid epidemic, according to the announcement. 

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  • New Jersey Moves to Regulate Telehealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    One of the last states to regulate telehealth is moving forward with legislation that would permit video visits and consults and store-and-forward technology – but not healthcare delivered by phone, e-mail or text message. The New Jersey Senate’s health committee has unanimously approved S.291, which would enable clinicians in the Garden State to establish a valid physician-patient relationship via telehealth, require state health plans and private plans that cover state employees to reimburse at the same rate as in-person care, and prevent those plans from mandating an in-person visit before telehealth use. The bill also allows out-of-state healthcare providers to treat New Jersey residents via telehealth as long as they have a reciprocal medical license; New Jersey lawmakers enacted a rule in 2014 allowing doctors from other states to treat patient in New Jersey as long as the medical license they hold in their state aligns with New Jersey requirements.

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  • Opioid Crisis in Rural Areas May be Tackled Through Telemedicine

    The Washington Post

    Robert Devereaux is a family physician in this southwest corner of Virginia, where problems surrounding prescription opioid use far outstrip the capacity of psychiatrists and addiction specialists to treat them. When he found crushed fragments of painkiller pills inside the nose of an older patient with chronic back pain, the most Devereaux could do was refuse to prescribe more. “There are a lot of patients in denial. … It’s a lot of families that have suffered horribly from this,” he said, sitting in his one-story clinic in the small town of Pearisburg. “The mental health issues aren’t going to go away.” But some health professionals, as well as the federal government, think technology could offer a solution — by using video chat to connect patients in need with faraway physicians who know how to treat addiction. Their telemedicine effort is part of a larger initiative to fight the opioid epidemic in hard-hit rural areas such as Appalachia. This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture directed $1.4 million to five pilot projects in southwest Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. One will be run by Carilion Clinic, the health system that operates Devereaux’s practice, along with other hospitals and medical practices in the region. This is an obvious potential direction to move in,” said Colleen Barry, a professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins University and co-director of its Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research. “There are some real opportunities and some pretty significant challenges.” 

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  • New Gadgets That Could Give Telemedicine a Boost

    The Wall Street Journal

    Telemedicine offers patients the chance to meet with a doctor, 24/7, without leaving home. But many physicians are wary of participating because they can’t peer into patients’ ears, look down their throats or listen to their lungs remotely.  A new genre of home diagnostic devices aims to address those concerns by giving patients some of the same tools that doctors use during in-office exams. Think part Star Trek Tricorder, part Harry Potter Extendable Ear. The closest to market is Tyto, a hand-held gizmo about the size of a softball. One attachment works like a stethoscope to capture and record a patient’s heartbeat and breath sounds. Other attachments allow a built-in camera to get a good look at patient’s tonsils and into the ear canal. The camera can also take high-resolution photos of skin lesions, rashes and moles. All the images, sounds and readouts can be shared with a doctor over the internet in real time or stored in a software program for later use. 

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  • Telehealth Provisions of ACO Improvement Bill Win Praise

    Modern Healthcare

    Providers are lauding a new bi-partisan bill aimed at tweaking rules covering Medicare Accountable Care Organizations, including waiving restrictions on the use of telehealth. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.). The measure would reduce regulatory burdens for ACOs by waiving the telehealth site-of-service requirements, a modification sought by the American Medical Group Association, among other organizations. Fisher, president and CEO of the AMGA in a news release statement said the suggested policy changes are a "positive step that will improve the long term viability of the Medicare Shared Savings Program." CAPG, an association of 250 physician organizations practicing capitated, coordinated care, also said the bill will lead to better care coordination through improved access to both telehealth services and remote patient monitoring.  

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  • Walgreens Adds Dermatology Line As Telehealth For Skin Care Grows

    Forbes

    Walgreens Boots Alliance is launching a skin care platform that will include video consultations with dermatologists, part of a rapidly growing segment of the digital health industry. Walgreens already offers access to physicians via smartphone, desktop and tablet through its relationship with telehealth firm MDLive, and the drugstore chain is expanding access to mental health services as well. In this new deal disclosed Monday, Walgreens has partnered with Iagnosis and its flagship product DermatologistOnCall, which has a network of dermatology specialists. “The teledermatology offering and collaboration is a natural extension of some of the services we already provide and can serve as a resource for screening and potential early diagnosis of a variety of skin conditions,” Dr. Harry Leider, Walgreens chief medical officer said in a statement. Online skin care consultations cost $59 each, Walgreens said. Dermatology is part of a total U.S. market of “specialty care” virtual consultations estimated at 15.5 million in 2015 and growing 8% a year, according to market research firm I.H.S. 

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  • Arkansas Medical Board Approves Telemedicine Regulations Establishing Doctor-Patient Relationship

    MobiHealth News

    Arkansans will now be able to use telemedicine the way every other state (except Texas) does. The state’s Board of Medicine approved regulations that allow a doctor and patient to establish a relationship via telemedicine. The medical board’s approved regulations outline a “proper physician-patient relationship” to include “a face-to-face examination using real time audio and visual telemedicine technology that provides information at least equal to such information as would have been obtained by an in-person examination.” 

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  • If Not Parity, Clarity - Getting Doctors Paid For Telehealth

    Forbes

    In the world of telehealth, we are well beyond the time when physicians worry whether they are within their clinical rights to provide care through technology. Whether through action by state medical boards or acts of state legislature, nearly every state has upheld that the standard of care for physicians when provided through these technologies should be equivalent to care provided in brick and mortar environments. Come January, these doctors will have an even easier time projecting this care throughout the nation when the Federation of State Medical Boards Interstate Licensure Compact is set to be fully operational – making it easier to secure multi-state licensure. These accomplishments are not insignificant. They create a vital infrastructure for telehealth to do its job – make care more accessible, timely and cost effective. But there’s a fundamental question left unanswered that will diminish the number of providers who elect to embrace telehealth and say “yes” to increasing the amount of care available to our nation’s sick. “Will I be paid?”

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  • The $54 Million Hospital Without Any Beds

    CNN Money

    Instead, 330 staffers at Mercy's Virtual Care Center, located just outside of St. Louis, place video calls to patients using highly sensitive two-way cameras -- and monitor their vital signs in real time through tools like pulse oximeters that plug into an iPad. The goal: Avoid expense and hassle on both sides by providing care when and where the patient needs it, preventing some of the hospital re-admissions that add $41.3 billion to hospital costs annually, according to a government study. Under new federal guidelines, hospitals are partly responsible for keeping costs down. So they're turning to video chats, email and other online communications to keep patients out of the ER whenever possible.
    "The sickest 5% of patients are typically responsible for about half of the health care spent and many end up, unnecessarily, back in the hospital," Gavin Helton, the medical director of Mercy Virtual Care, told CNNMoney. "We need an answer for those patients." Mercy says the Virtual Care Center, launched in October 2015, is the first of its kind: a $54 million, four-story "hospital without beds" that houses zero patients. It's home to a variety of "telemedicine" programs that allow Mercy to care for patients remotely round-the-clock. 

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  • Feds Support Teladoc Challenge to Texas Telemedicine Rules

    Modern Healthcare

    The U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have backed Teladoc's challenge of the Texas Medical Board's telemedicine restrictions, saying the rules are anticompetitive and weren't appropriately reviewed.The Justice Department and FTC told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to ignore the medical board's appeal of Teladoc's case that prevents the board from implementing a rule that curbs telemedicine practices in the state, saying the court doesn't have the authority to review the decision and the rule itself should be thrown out. In 2015, the Texas Medical Board passed a rule requiring physicians to meet with a patient in person before treating them remotely, or they would need to have another provider physically present for telemedicine visits. But federal regulators said in their amicus brief Friday that the rule wasn't appropriately reviewed and the board could be biased, echoing Teladoc's arguments against the rule, which they say threatens its business model. Federal support of Teladoc is yet another negative sign for the Texas Medical Board. 

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  • New Law Allows Missouri Schools to Bill Medicaid for Telehealth Services

    StateScoop

    Missouri schools are poised to expand their use of videoconferencing technology in delivering health services to students now that a new law is in place. The law, signed by Gov. Jay Nixon in June and which took effect last week, lays out a series of provisions governing telehealth practices and stipulates that the state’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet, start supporting schools looking to offer services like videoconferencing for physician consultations. The new law is particularly meaningful for students with special needs — federal law requires districts to provide those students with services like speech therapy, physical therapy and mental health services, and the new statute specifically makes physicians specializing in those areas eligible to use telehealth techniques as part of the state’s Medicaid program. The law also designates a child’s home, a school or a “child assessment center” as “originating sites” where patients are allowed to receive telehealth services. Phyllis Wolfram, executive director of special programs for the Springfield, Missouri Public School District and president-elect for the Council of Administrators of Special Education, told StateScoop that change could end up being “the greatest thing in the world” for special needs educators across Missouri. 

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  • Telemedicine Could Prevent Top Cause of Blindness in the U.S.

    Health System Management

    Electronic eye exams could become popular in the U.S. among patients who see them as an easy way to visit the eye doctor, a press release from the University of Michigan Health System notes. After a nationwide telemedicine diabetic screening program in England and Wales, for example, diabetic retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness there. Similar e-health programs could grow stateside, where diabetic retinopathy remains the main driver of new-onset blindness. But it hasn’t been known if patients would participate. Researchers at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center conducted a study of older adults to find out. If services are convenient, patients will use them, the investigation found. “Telemedicine has been shown to be a safe method to provide monitoring for diabetic eye care. If physicians plan to change the way that people get care, we must create a service that is appealing and tailored to the patients,” says senior study author Maria Woodward, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Kellogg Eye Center. Early detection and treatment is key to prevent blindness from diabetic retinopathy, but fewer than 65% of U.S. adults with diabetes undergo screening. In underserved populations, rates can drop as low as 10 or 20%, the press release claims. 

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