Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • D.C. Bill Would Make it Easier for Doctors to Practice Across State Lines

    Washington Business Journal

    It could be easier for doctors from outside the District to practice medicine in D.C. — largely using telemedicine — in the future if a bill to be introduced Tuesday by D.C. Councilman Vincent Gray ultimately passes. The measure would authorize the District to join a compact of 17 states created by the Federation of State Medical Boards that have agreed to standardize and expedite the process for licensing physicians from other jurisdictions that are also members of the group. Mayor Vincent Gray is proposing two pieces of health care legislation on Tuesday. Mayor Vincent Gray is proposing two pieces of health care legislation on Tuesday. The goal is to make it easier for physicians outside D.C.'s 68 square miles to provide care through telemedicine to District residents, particularly those in medically underserved areas, said Gray, D-Ward 7, who chairs the council's health committee. Allowing practitioners to obtain an expedited D.C. license will supplement the physician workforce and increase access, Gray said. "A lot of people mistakenly view telemedicine as a rural solution, thinking that the practice is only useful when long distances separate providers from patients," Gray said. 

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  • Maine Compass: Telehealth Can Save Lives, Money

    CentralMaine.com

    There is a lot of fuss about how health care will be paid for these days. Here in Maine, however, there is a problem that goes beyond paying for health care — it’s how to access services in the first place. A potential solution to a growing need for health care is the use of telehealth or telemedicine. If we want a healthy, safe Maine, we need to take steps to ensure that this solution is available statewide. Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation; 11 of our 16 counties are identified as “rural.” Long distances and a lack of transportation limit access to health care services for a large percentage of Mainers. Directly related to our ruralness, we have a shortage of health care providers and health care services; 277 of our towns are designated as Medically Underserved Areas, and every county in the state has at least one town that is underserved. Additionally, there are 68 Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in the state. To put these numbers in perspective, approximately 133,000 Mainers are unable to get the medical care they need; this is more than the entire population of Kennebec County. Because of a shortage of providers, many Mainers have no source of primary care. Emergency rooms, therefore, serve as a catch-all for the management and treatment of preventable illness. 

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  • Telemedicine Ambulance May Deliver Faster Stroke Care

    Medical Xpress

    When experiencing a stroke, people who are brought to the hospital in an ambulance with a CT scanner and telemedicine capabilities are evaluated and treated nearly two times faster than people taken in a regular ambulance, according to a study published in the March 8, 2017, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. An ischemic stroke is the most common kind of stroke, when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. It can often be treated with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA), a clot-busting drug, but the drug ideally should be given within four-and-a-half hours of the start of symptoms to improve chances of recovery. "The sooner someone is treated for stroke, the better chance they have for survival and an improved recovery," said study author Muhammad S. Hussain, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Telemedicine makes it possible for a neurologist to see a stroke patient, and possibly treat them, before they even arrive at the hospital." 

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  • Virginia Passes Proactive Legislation to Protect Telemedicine for Eye Care

    MobiHealth News

    In stark contrast to the law that past last year in South Carolina, the state of Virginia has proactively passed a pro-telemedicine bill that protects the rights of optometrists and ophthalmologists to see patients and issue prescriptions via telemedicine. The law, signed late last month, states that "for the purpose of a provider prescribing spectacles, eyeglasses, lenses, or contact lenses to a patient, a provider shall establish a bona fide provider-patient relationship by an examination (i) in person, (ii) through face-to-face interactive, two-way, real-time communication, or (iii) store-and-forward technologies." “Today, the Commonwealth struck a good balance,” Virginia State Delegate Peter Farrell, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement last month. “We have signaled to entrepreneurs that their ideas and innovations are welcome in our state. As we empower doctors to utilize these new telemedicine options that will increase access to healthcare and lower costs, we have also made sure that the health and safety of our residents comes first.” The law was the result of lobbying by telemedicine eye care companies, who have undertaken lobbying in response to local optometry and ophalmology industry groups seeking legislation to oppose them.  

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  • Vermont Health Information Exchange Adds Telehealth Component

    mHealth Intelligence

    An agreement between the Vermont Health Information Exchange (VHIE) and two healthcare organizations that provide telehealth services in the state now give providers connected to the statewide network access to telemonitoring data. In a recent announcement, the operators of VHIE — Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc. (VITL) —that Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice (CVHHH) and the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittendon and Grand Isle Counties (VNA) have connected their telemonitoring program and systems for treating patients with complex health conditions to the state HIE. As a result, Vermont providers can now access data on complex disease states such as heart and respiratory conditions. Telemonitors provide patients a way to measure and record their vital signs daily from home using a touchscreen tablet. The information is then wirelessly transmitted to nurses monitoring the information for changes, giving patients a sense of empowerment around their health. 

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  • Telehealth: A Vital Tool in the Home Healthcare Space

    mHealth Intelligence

    A North Carolina-based health system is one of several using telehealth to improve its home healthcare services – a critical move in light of expected cuts in home health reimbursements from Medicare. FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a five-hospital health system based in Pinehurst, N.C., reportedly saved almost $2 million by using telehealth to care for high-risk patients who don’t qualify for Medicare-funded home health services. The health system used a grant from the Duke Endowment to create a care management program for selected patients in its Medicare Advantage plan. Under the pilot program, launched in late 2015, the patients were visited by a home health nurse within 48 hours of discharge, then given an mHealth enabled tablet that allows them to track their own vital signs and send that data to FirstHealth. The digital health platform also enabled patients to access personalized health and wellness information and collaborate with FirstHealth on an ongoing care plan. According to health system officials, while the telehealth platform cost roughly $700 per patient for a 60-day care plan, rehospitalizations would have cost the health system more than $8,000 for each patient – none of which is covered by Medicare, and some of which could have cost the health system even more in penalties.

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  • Texas Ready to Take on New Telemedicine Rules

    mHealth Intelligence

    Texas lawmakers are ready to review a bill that would define telehealth and telemedicine and enable clinicians in the state to use the platform to establish a physician-patient relationship. Submitted this week by State Sen. Perry Schwertner, R-Georgetown, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and an orthopedic surgeon, S.B. 1107 sets definitions for telehealth, telemedicine and store-and-forward technology and creates guidelines for physicians using technology. The bill specifically eliminates current wording that requires a face-to-face meeting between doctor and patient before the doctor can use telemedicine for certain services, such as issuing a prescription. The bill also bans physicians from using telemedicine to prescribe “an abortifacient or any other drug or device that terminates a pregnancy.” If passed, Texas would become the 20th state to specifically ban telemedicine abortions.

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  • Can Telemedicine Revolutionize Rural Healthcare in Africa?

    Smart Villages

    Huw Jones traces the earliest origins of The Virtual Doctors to a trail of blood he saw while travelling through rural Zambia to buy pumpkins for soup. It was the mid-1990s and he was employed there as a safari guide. Soon, he found the source of the bleeding: A woman riding on a bicycle pedaled by her husband. She’d gone into labour and they were trying to reach a hospital about 60 miles away. Jones gave the couple a ride in his car, but it was too late. “It kind of just blew me away, watching her bleed to death in the back of my vehicle,” he says. The more Jones learned about health care in Zambia, the more problems he discovered. Twenty to 30 percent of visits to rural clinics ended in a referral to the local hospital, resulting in expensive and time-consuming trips. Particularly if the patient was the head of a household, these journeys could cause real financial damage. Often, the referrals could have been avoided if the local clinician had access to more information. Jones was not a doctor, so he couldn’t help patients directly. But he knew many doctors from around the world who’d worked in Zambia and wanted to stay involved. He imagined a network of volunteer doctors who would take questions from health clinic workers in the countryside, thereby providing better diagnoses at the local level and reducing the need for referrals. 

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  • Telemedicine On the Rise at Vermont Hospitals

    VT Digger

    At Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, emergency room patients are connecting via video with neurologists who are more than 60 miles away. At the Brattleboro Retreat, administrators soon will be setting up remote psychiatry consults. And starting next week, a group of patients suffering from diabetes and hypertension will be chatting with Grace Cottage Hospital staffers by webcam from the comfort of their own homes. Windham County’s hospitals are jumping on board a trend that seems to be, in the words of one local nurse, “gaining momentum quite rapidly” in Vermont: Health care providers are investing in new forms of telemedicine or “telehealth,” terms used for the practice of linking doctors, nurses and patients who aren’t in the same physical space. The investments come as technology continues to improve and as state legislators consider a bill that expands insurance reimbursement for telemedicine. Health care administrators say those developments, along with new focus on preventive medicine, are leading to changes in how patients interact with their caregivers. “The timing is probably right politically and at all levels in health care in general,” said Crystal Mansfield, a member of Grace Cottage’s Community Health Team. “We could have done this 10 years ago, but the whole system wasn’t really ready.” 

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  • NATO Ready to Deploy Telemedicine Platform

    mHealth Intelligence

    NATO has finished testing a multinational telemedicine platform for emergency scenes or combat zones and is ready to deploy the suitcase-sized kits where needed around the world. The 28-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization made the announcement at a conference at its headquarters in Brussels. The telemedicine program, supported by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Program, was launched in 2013 and involved experts from the U.S., Romania, Finland, Moldova and the Ukraine. “In the event of a disaster, telemedicine helps eliminate distance barriers and improves access to medical services that would often not be available on the ground, even in remote areas,” Sorin Ducaru, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, said in a press release. 

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  • Telehealth Cuts Ambulance, Emergency Costs

    Medscape

    A telehealth initiative — in which emergency medical technicians use a tablet to connect patients with doctors instead of taking them to the emergency room — is reducing unnecessary visits and saving money in Houston, a new study shows. An added benefit of the program is that it connects patients with a medical home, said presenter James Langabeer, PhD, from the University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics in Houston. "For a lot of people, the medical home is the emergency department," he told Medscape Medical News here at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society 2017 Conference. "They think that's the only way they can pay for care." Emergency medical services respond to about 650,000 911 calls a year in Houston. And the number of 911 calls is rising, regardless of whether urban areas are gaining or losing population, Dr Langabeer reported. 

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  • Report: 58% of Patients Finds Two-Way At-Home Monitoring Devices Useful

    HIT Consultant

    58% of patients believe two-way, at-home monitoring devices are very useful to interact with their healthcare provider than a more basic one-way at-home device, according to a report from West. The report, Strengthening Chronic Care reveals while (50%) of patients feel an at-home medical device that measures their health using sensors and sends information back to providers for an evaluation would be extremely beneficial, nearly three in five believe a two-way at-home medical device that allows for additional communication would be useful. Ultimately, more patients prefer the idea of using a two-way at-home medical device to interact with their healthcare provider than a more basic one-way at-home device. Because there is so much evidence to show that patients need and want support all the time – not just when they are face to face with providers –advanced monitoring technology such as biometric devices and strategies that involve tailoring communications, are invaluable. The report finds that adopting these types of tools and strategies, providers can improve chronic care and drive better patient outcomes.When patient outcomes improve, unnecessary hospital readmissions and admissions decrease, patients have better overall healthcare experiences, and hospitals and health systems are able to earn more reimbursements and avoid penalties. 

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  • MDLive Expands to Offer Behavioral Telemedicine Services in All 50 States

    MobiHealth News

    Telemedicine provider MDLive, which has a behavioral health network of more than 1,300 mental health professionals, is now offering virtual psychiatric services with contracted psychiatrists in all 50 states. MDLive originally launched behavioral health services in November 2014 after they acquired online behavioral therapy provider Breakthrough Behavioral. Since that acquisition, the company reports it has conducted more than 50,000 virtual mental health visits and is now available to more than 10 million Americans as a covered benefit through their healthcare plans, as well as direct to all consumers for the price of a copay. MDLive claims it is the first telemedicine company to offer behavioral health services in all 50 states, which it says is critically needed at a time when mental health services are still not readily accessible to many Americans even though there is an estimated one in five people with a diagnosable mental disorder and the current wait time to see a professional averages 30 days. “Part of the mental health crisis in the US is due to the difficulty in finding and accessing qualified mental health practitioners in urban and rural areas,” MDLive CEO Scott Decker said in a statement.  

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  • Continua: Telehealth Platform Saved Lives After Japan Earthquake

    mHealth Intelligence

    A four-year study of survivors of the 2011 Japan earthquake has found that a remote monitoring platform conforming to Continua standards can reduce cardiac stress and improve long-term patient monitoring. The study, published last year in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, suggests that a telehealth platform can improve outcomes and even save lives if integrated with an internationally recognized interoperability framework that improves data transfer. "Study authors concluded that D-CAP saved lives," Patricia Mechael, PhD, executive vice president of the Personal Connected Health Alliance, said in a press release of Continua’s Disaster Cardiovascular Prevention Network, which was deployed following the earthquake. "User-friendly connections between Continua-certified devices reduced device and data integration time when it was medically critical. The Continua-certified network approach directly enabled positive outcomes for patients and demonstrated cost savings for vendors participating in the network." The Continua Health Alliance is a founding member of the three-year-old PCHA, along with the Healthcare Information and management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the mHealth Summit. 

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  • Telemedicine-Friendly FAST Act Heads Back to Congress

    mHealth Intelligence

     Congress is set to revisit a bill that would expand Medicare reimbursement nationwide for telestroke services. The Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act, originally introduced in 2015, would alter the Social Security Act to allow Medicare coverage of telestroke services no matter where the patient is located. Current legislation allows those services only in certain rural areas. U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), who co-sponsored the original legislation, made the announcement this week that they have reintroduced the bill, with the support of the American Heart Association and American Academy of Neurology. Both said they want to apply telemedicine technology that has proven its value in combatting the nation’s fifth leading cause of death. “The FAST Act, as the name implies, will help more stroke victims gain faster access to high-quality care through remote evaluation and treatment - commonly called telestroke,” Beatty said in a press release. “As a stroke survivor and co-chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition, I know firsthand how minutes can literally mean the difference between life and death. That is why I proudly join Congressman Griffith in reintroducing the FAST Act to ensure telestroke is readily available to more people.” 

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