Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Pennsylvania Legislature Introduces Telemedicine Reimbursement Bill

    mHealth Intelligence

    Pennsylvania has opened the door to becoming the next state to allow full telemedicine reimbursement parity for care services. Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) introduced Senate Bill 780 to define key components of telemedicine, set telemedicine licensing requirements and require that healthcare payers provide reimbursement for telemedicine services if they pay for the same service in person. Along with the Senate bill is a House companion making the rounds among state legislators. The bill would also ensure reimbursement for telehealth services under "ancillary service plans."  These are individual or group health insurance plans, subscriber contracts or certificates that provide exclusive coverage for dental services or vision services. Healthcare services purchased through ancillary plans cannot be excluded from coverage just because they were performed via telemedicine.

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  • Senator Vogel Continues Push for Telemedicine Initiatives in Pennsylvania

    EllwoodCity.org

    Technology can help overcome the barriers to quality patient care created by distance and reduce the costs of those services, according to Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), the author of legislation aimed at promoting telemedicine in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 780 specifically defines telemedicine as “the delivery of health care services provided through telecommunications technology to a patient by a healthcare practitioner who is at a different location.” It also establishes guidelines regarding who can provide telemedicine services, and provides clarity regarding insurance company reimbursement for those services. “Telemedicine is transforming healthcare and it is something our state should embrace and encourage,” Senator Vogel said. “Through the use of telemedicine, specialists and other health care providers are able to expand their reach, helping patients stay in their communities and avoid traveling long distances for specialized care. That will not only save costs, but it could save lives as well. 

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  • New Jersey’s Telemedicine Regulations are Ready to Become Law

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telemedicine legislation headed to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s desk would, among other things, enable physicians to use telehealth to establish a doctor-patient relationship, ensure the same standards of care as an in-person visit, and ensure coverage and payment parity for private payers, state Medicaid and some other health plans. New Jersey’s State Senate approved S.291 last Thursday by a 38-0 vote, just hours after the State Assembly passed A.1464 by a vote of 73-0. The unanimous votes conclude more than a year of back-and-forth negotiations to set standards for the fast-growing technology. "The benefits to telemedicine are enormous," State Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), the leader of a six-legislator group sponsoring the Assembly bill, said in a statement. "It will make it quicker and easier to access treatment, drive up practices, lower costs and, most importantly, make sure patients get the treatment they need, when they need it, to improve their long-term health."

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  • Senators Introduce Bill to Expand Rural Telehealth Services

    Healthcare Informatics

    U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand access to rural telehealth services. The bill would allow non-rural hospitals serving rural areas to qualify for support from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF). The “Reaching Underserved Rural Areas to Lead on Telehealth Act (RURAL),” S. 1377, would update existing law to allow non-rural members of telehealth consortia to qualify for the 65 percent health-care provider broadband connectivity discount under the HCF as long as a majority of the locations within a group are serving patients in rural areas, according to a press release from Sen. Wicker’s office. “Telehealth services are critical to increasing rural Americans’ access to quality care,” Senator Wicker said in a statement. “Mississippi is leading the nation in developing telehealth technology. Our health-care providers have demonstrated that targeted investments in telehealth can increase access to life-saving services and drive down costs.” “Our bill will give telehealth service providers better incentives to serve more rural areas,” Senator Schatz said in a prepared statement. “Ultimately, that is good news for anyone who cares about expanding access to health care in Hawai‘i and other rural areas across the country.” 

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  • UVA Cites Success with Telemedicine, Telestroke in Rural Care

    Through the use of telemedicine and telestroke in rural care, the University of Virginia (UVA) reduced 30-day hospital readmission rates by 40 percent for patients with heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, stroke, and joint replacement. In a subcommittee hearing by the U.S Senate on FCC’s Universal Broadband Fund and Rural Healthcare (RHC) Program, Dr. Karen Rheuban, Medical Director for the Office of Telemedicine and Director for the Center for Telehealth at UVA presented a testimony that addressed the critical importance of enhancing the RHC program. Much of Rheuban’s testimony cited the many challenges telemedicine curbed within rural Virginia, such as easing the stress in overburned health facilities and reducing the barriers remote communities face in receiving proper healthcare.

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  • Telepsychiatry Opens a New Window into Behavioral Healthcare

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telepsychiatry is one of the fastest-growing platforms in the telemedicine space these days, due in large part to improvements in video-conferencing technology. Mental healthcare is described as the one medical field in which the doctor doesn’t have to lay hands on a patient, which means that psychiatrists, psychologists and behavioral and mental health counselors can get more out of a digital health session than an in-person visit compared to other disciplines. “Nowadays we can easily, across a screen, look face-to-face with somebody,” says John Sharp, chief behavioral health officer for MDLive. “We can do what we normally would do in an office … but then we can also see how that person lives.”   “You can actually get into their environment” with an online platform, adds Zereana Jess-Huff, American Well’s vice president of behavioral health. “More than any other use case, this makes psychology an ideal [platform for] telehealth.” 

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  • The Changing Telehealth Landscape

    Lexology

    When healthcare providers and information technology (IT) appear together in the news, it is often for less than positive reasons. The cyber security issues that have plagued everyone have not left physicians and hospitals unscathed; ransomware has held health systems large and small hostage; and laws such as HIPAA and HITECH have imposed considerable liabilities on providers. Concern about cyber security and the complexities inherent in IT matters is not misplaced. In a 12-day span in April, two separate HIPAA settlements handed down by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) directly involved IT issues--one, a phishing incident, led to a $400,000 settlement, and the other, which involved a stolen laptop and a lack of safeguards for electronic PHI on mobile devices, led to a $2.5 million settlement. Clearly, the presence of HIPAA and HITECH, combined with the prevalence of cyber security issues, creates a perilous IT landscape for providers.

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  • New Jersey’s Telemedicine Legislation Faces a New Controversy

    mHealth Intelligence

    New Jersey’s landmark telemedicine legislation could be running into a roadblock. The New Jersey General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee has amended Assembly Bill 1464 to limit to three years the provision that telemedicine be an accepted means of establishing the doctor-patient relationship.  After that, the legislation would require physicians and their new patient to first meet in person before moving to a telehealth platform. The change was pushed by physicians’ groups who fear telemedicine – especially large telemedicine companies from out-of-state – will hurt solo physicians and small practices. That amendment caught the eye of the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), a national association that advocates exclusively for large employers on health, retirement and compensation public policies. The committee had presented written testimony in favor of the bill prior to a June 12 public hearing, but withdrew its support on June 16 after reviewing the amended bill.

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  • Massachusetts Invests $250K in Digital Health Innovation

    mHealth Intelligence

    The Baker-Polito Administration of MA is offering a sum of $250,000 to support designated Digital Health Innovation Labs within the state. This is the second investment the governor's office has made as part of the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative (DHI), which is used to support two digital health incubators in the state. Of the total, $170,000 will go to the PULSE@ MassChallenge hub in Boston while the remaining $80,000 will support Baystate Health’s TechSpring technology innovation center in Springfield.The new awards are part of the state’s digital health Marketplace Program, which is an effort to build stronger ties between the region’s digital health innovators and healthcare customers. “Both of these organizations are having real impacts when it comes to growing the digital health sectors in Eastern and Western Massachusetts,” said MA Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “We’re excited not only for the economic potential that these digital health startups hold for Massachusetts, but also the potential of their innovations to impact patients around the globe.” 

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  • Why Providers are Dragging Their Feet with Virtual Care

    HealthData Management

    Recently, health technology investor Malay Gandhi said, “telehealth is a runaway, unassailable trend that will become the predominant way people receive care.” If that could be the future, then why does today look so different? One important reason: Despite the well-documented benefits of virtual access to care—improved access to providers, greater efficiency and flexibility, comparable care outcomes—hundreds of interviews with healthcare leaders reveal a common roadblock to growing a mature program: physician resistance.  According to many physicians, their patients are only interested in having an in-person relationship with their doctor, especially when it comes to specialty services. Additionally, we increasingly hear about pushback related to uneven reimbursement for virtual services.  New survey findings, however, tell a different story. It’s not one many physicians are ready to swallow. Not only are patients interested in virtual care—many may actually prefer it.  According to a new Advisory Board survey, up to 77 percent of consumers would consider seeing a provider virtually, and 19 percent already have. The results suggest that the healthcare industry has largely underestimated and, to date, failed to meet consumer interest in virtual care.  

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  • Florida Cuts Telemedicine Out of New Medical Marijuana Law

    mHealth Intelligence

    Florida lawmakers have passed legislation that prevents doctors from using telemedicine to issue a prescription for medical marijuana. The rule, part of 80 pages of legislation passed by lawmakers during a special session on June 9, requires that Sunshine State doctors who want to issue a medical marijuana prescription must first “(conduct) a physical examination while physically present in the same room as the patient and a full assessment of the medical history of the patient.”  With some 29 states and Washington D.C. allowing medical marijuana (eight states have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational uses), state officials are looking to control how the drug is prescribed and distributed, including through telehealth. In a survey last year by the Federation of State Medical Boards, encompassing 57 of the 70 state medical and osteopathic boards across the US, medical marijuana was listed as the fifth most important issue facing these boards – while telehealth topped that list.

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  • New Jersey Lawmakers on Track to OK Telemedicine Legislation

    mHealth Intelligence

    New Jersey lawmakers are moving forward with a sweeping set of telemedicine regulations that would open the doors to telehealth, ensure parity and put the Garden State on track to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. In one of the last states to codify telemedicine, New Jersey’s Assembly Bill 1464 would enable clinicians 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 patients in New Jersey as long as the medical license they hold in their state aligns with New Jersey requirements.

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  • National Quality Forum Issues Draft Telehealth Framework

    Healthcare Informatics

    The National Quality Forum (NQF) issued a report that outlines a measure framework, with a prioritized list of measure concepts, and guiding principles for future telehealth measurement. NQF acknowledges that telehealth offers tremendous potential to transform the healthcare delivery system by overcoming geographical distance, enhancing access to care, and building efficiencies. This report is a project initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for NQF to convene a multi-stakeholder committee to recommend various methods to measure the use of telehealth as a means of providing care. The committee was charged to develop a measurement framework that identifies measures and measure concepts and serves as a conceptual foundation for new measures, where needed, to assess the quality of care provided using telehealth modalities. The goal of the project was to facilitate the identification of the most appropriate way to ensure clinical measures are applied to telehealth encounters in order to measure quality of care and to guide the future development of telehealth-related measures. Public comments on the NQF draft framework are due June 30. 

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  • Telehealth Adoption to Double by 2018

    Hospitals & Health Networks

    The number of U.S. health systems with consumer-service telehealth programs is on pace to nearly double from 2016 to 2018, according to findings from the Hospital & Health Systems 2016 Consumer Telehealth Benchmark Survey by Teladoc. Seventy-six percent of U.S. hospitals and health systems either have in place or expect to implement a consumer telehealth program by 2018. Drivers for the rapid adoption growth include the desire to improve access to care, improve care coordination, increase efficiency, prevent readmissions and expand population health programs. In addition, 69 percent of organizations that currently have consumer telehealth programs are planning to expand their offerings, and 76 percent of organizations without consumer telehealth indicate it is a high strategic priority for their organizations.

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  • New Jersey Moves to Regulate Growing Telemedicine Industry

    NJ.com

    An Assembly panel Monday voted to regulate the burgeoning tele-medicine industry in New Jersey that supporters say will enable medically fragile people to remain home rather than having to travel for appointments, and save money by cutting back on unnecessary emergency room visits. Doctors and some hospitals, such as the Virtua Health and the Inspira Health Network in south Jersey, already hold virtual appointments with patients, in a field that is already a decade old, medical providers told the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. But if the state Legislature ultimately passes (A1464), New Jersey would join 39 other states that have set standards on how these appointments are conducted and the prices that may be charged.

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