Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Letter: TRICARE Bill Could ‘Federalize’ Telehealth Doctors

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill to boost telehealth services for the nation’s armed forces may clash with state efforts to regulate the technology. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, now making its way through Congress, includes a telehealth benefit for the TRICARE program, but one version of the bill mandates that the originating location for certain telehealth services be the physician’s location. Several states and some federal programs have designated the patient’s location as the originating site. This version of the bill has been approved by the Senate, while the House approved a version that did not include the originating site designation. Congress is now working on combining the two bills into one piece of legislation. 

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  • First School-Based Telehealth Clinic Opens in Indiana

    Indiana Fox59

    Most parents have taken that call from the school nurse saying their child is sick and needs picked up and taken to the doctor. For parents in a small Madison County town, that situation is now much easier.  The Elwood Community School Corporation is the first in the state of Indiana to open a school-based telehealth clinic. Students can be seen by a long-time, local pediatrician without ever leaving school. "To have a chance to have something immediate like that was a real attention-getter for us," said Superintendent Chris Daughtry. Daughtry says don't worry, this isn't putting the job of his district's school nurse at risk. Nurse Heather Gordon and a doctor must work as a team. Gordon typically sees 60 to 80 students a day. If she thinks a child should be seen by a doctor, she calls the parents and invites them to the school for the exam and then gets Dr. Robert Zentz with St. Vincent Medical Group on the line. Dr. Zentz has more than 20 years of experience. 

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  • Telemedicine: Just What the Doctors Ordered

    BizWest

    Until a year ago, Dr. Alan Zacharias’ nights often weren’t his own.  With stroke victims required to see a neurologist before tissue plasminogen activator can be prescribed, he and other Boulder Community Health neurologists were often rushing to the emergency room in the middle of nights, trying to cut vital minutes from their travel time — time that might well save brain function in the patient. “That time can be very important,” said Zacharias, director of BCH’s neurology clinic. During the last year, the emergency room has been using a tele-, or virtual, medicine program, Blue Sky Neurology, which can connect stroke victims with neurologist in a matter of minutes. “We’ve been using it for about a year now,” Zacharias said, noting the ER sees at least three to five such situations every week. “We are seeing vastly decreasing times (for treatment). Every moment you increase that time, you increase the risk of irreversible damage.” Virtual medicine, once thought of mostly as a means of providing service to rural areas, is making an impact across northeastern Colorado health networks. While providing rural services is still an important element in the programs, more and more health networks are looking at tele-medicine as a method of increasing the value of their entire health portfolio — often in different and very distinct fashion.

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  • Low Use of Telehealth Tied to Flawed Payment Models

    American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

    A lot of physicians and insurers might recognize the potential benefits of telehealth, but one author of a recent study said inadequate support from payers keeps more family physicians from using the technology. A study conducted by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care found that family physicians who used telehealth were much more likely than nonusers to work in federally designated safety net clinics (28 percent versus 15 percent) or HMOs (19 percent versus 11 percent). Academic health centers reported the lowest use of telehealth. Titled "Who is Using Telehealth in Primary Care? Safety Net Clinics and Health Maintenance Organizations,"(www.jabfm.org) the study was published in the July-August issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 

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  • How Nighttime Telehealth Services Can Improve Overnight Care

    mHealth Intelligence

    In hospitals across the country, the image of the solitary doctor making midnight rounds is changing, thanks to telemedicine.  That doctor now sits in front of a tablet, laptop or desktop computer, perhaps at home or even in another country. And he or she can be connected to several hospitals via a telemedicine network, helping night shift nurses with whatever needs to be done during those long, not-always-quiet hours between dinner and breakfast. Welcome to the world of the telenocturnist. At CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital in Sulphur Springs, Texas, some 90 miles northeast of Dallas, night shift nurses can instantly access a doctor via video through a partnership with Dallas-based Access Physicians.

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  • New Survey Shows Growing Support for Telemedicine in Texas

    mHealth Intelligence

    A new telemedicine survey by the Texas Association of Business (TAB) that state employers and healthcare consumers are interested in increased access to remote interactions with their providers.According to the survey, consumers want immediate access and limited wait time, providers want to use technology to streamline services, and employers want to offer both in their health benefits packages. “The Texas Association of Business’s study on telemedicine’s use and satisfaction among employees and Texas businesses highlights a growing trend around the country – more and more people want access to quality health care when and where they need it," said Allison Wils, Director of Health and Policy for the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) in a statement.  The TAB surveyed 600 registered Texas voters regarding their viewpoints on telemedicine and their use of healthcare. 

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  • Agencies Encourage New Privacy Regulations to Close the mHealth Black Hole and Keep Pace with Evolving Technologies

    The National Law Review

    On July 19, 2016, the ONC1 submitted a report to Congress which suggests that health privacy regulations soon may be revised to catch up with the universe of mHealth technologies that now use and share personal health data2. The report, titled Examining Oversight of the Privacy and Security of Health Data Collected by Entities (the "Report"), was drafted by the ONC in collaboration with the Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") and US Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"). The Report summarizes the regulatory construct currently protecting the privacy of personal health information held by covered entities (and their business associates)3 and outlines the agencies' concerns regarding the lack of similar regulatory oversight over health data usage by mHealth technology developers and other businesses falling outside the scope of HIPAA4 (each, referred to as a "Non-Covered Entity" or "NCE"). Since HIPAA's passage in 1996, health data usage has evolved beyond the simple chart review in the doctor's office or processing of an insurance claim. Scores of new businesses and technologies have emerged that utilize health data in increasingly innovative ways. 

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  • Arkansas' New Telemedicine Rules Small Step Forward

    The National Law Review

    The Arkansas Legislative Council’s Rules and Regulations Subcommittee approved, on August 16, 2016, proposed regulations which, if accepted by the Arkansas Legislative Council, will remove some restrictions on telemedicine providers in a state that enjoyed the lowest ranking among all states in the American Telemedicine Association’s most recent report. Currently, Arkansas Code 17-80-117, enacted in April 2015, and Regulation No. 2(8), require an initial in-person encounter to establish a valid physician-patient relationship. Following the issuance of draft rules last October and the release of proposed amendments in April, the Legislative Subcommittee gave its final approval in August to amend Arkansas’ prior practice standards for telemedicine by revising the text of Regulation No. 2(8)(A) and (B). These amendments allow a doctor to establish a valid relationship with a patient, without the need for an in-person exam, if the doctor “performs 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.” The revised regulation will become effective August 26.

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  • Europe Urged to Support U.S.-Based Telehealth Standards

    mHealth Intelligence

    Five nations and a region in Spain are looking to the U.S. for help in pushing the needle on telehealth adoption in Europe.n a three-page letter sent in June to Europe’s 28-member eHealth Network and the European Commission to promote eHealth policies, healthcare officials from Sweden, Finland, Austria, Denmark, Norway and Spain’s Catalonia region ask for, among other things, “a European evaluation of an end-to-end interoperability framework based on international standards for personal connected health.” he officials cite barriers familiar to telehealth advocates in the U.S.: healthcare systems reluctant to update legacy IT systems that can’t easily support new technology, and a hesitance to adopt open standards that would enable interoperability.

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  • Telehealth Opportunity Or Telehealth 'Parity'?

    Forbes

    Telehealth provides a great opportunity to reduce costs and improve quality in U.S. health care. It uses information technology to eliminate distance within the system. A subset of telehealth is telemedicine, which allows physicians to consult patients over the phone, by text, or video. Take a couple of obvious examples: Telepsychiatry, whereby a patient undergoing talk therapy has a session with his psychiatrist over the phone instead of having to go to the doctor’s office; or e-prescribing, whereby a patient can describe symptoms over the phone or send a photo (of, for example, a rash) and the doctor can prescribe immediately (if appropriate). Most people tend to categorize these as “no-brainers.” If we paid for our own care directly, these and many other examples would have long since taken off. However, because payment for medical care is dominated by health insurers and government, these innovations have been stifled. Third-party payers impose obstacles because they fear paying fraudulent claims.

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  • Missouri Governor Signs New Telemedicine Law

    Lexology

    Missouri’s governor signed into law SB 579 (the “Act”), on June 8, 2016, establishing new telemedicine practice standards, including explicitly allowing a valid physician-patient relationship to be established via telemedicine. Here is a summary of the Act’s key provisions:

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  • Recent Relaxation of State-level Challenges to Expansion of Telemedicine but Barriers Remain

    The National Law Review

    The use of telemedicine has expanded access to care to patients in rural areas and provided a convenient alternative to battling congested physician offices and emergency department waiting rooms. In repeated studies the delivery of medicine through electronic means has reduced the cost of care, improved efficiencies, and provided a realistic solution to increasing shortages of physicians. Despite promising studies, however, multiple barriers continue to present obstacles to widespread adoption and implementation of telemedicine.  One of the greatest barriers to adoption continues to be variances and inconsistencies in state laws governing the practice of medicine.

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  • Pa. Lawmakers Consider Bill to Set Telemedicine Standards, Require Insurance Coverage

    StateScoop

    Pennsylvania lawmakers are now considering a bill to define what constitutes telemedicine in the state and that directs insurers to cover the use of telehealth technology for treatment. State Sen. Elder Vogel’s S.B. 1342 is now up for consideration by the Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee after he introduced it earlier this month. If passed, it would add the first standards surrounding telemedicine techniques, like video conferencing for consultations, into the state’s statutes. “Telemedicine is a significant and rapidly growing component of health care,” Elder wrote in a memo soliciting support for the bill. “Through the use of telemedicine, specialists and other health care providers are able to expand their reach, helping rural patients stay in their communities and avoid traveling long distances for specialized care.” 

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  • Arkansas Still Struggling with Telehealth Regulations

    mHealth Intelligence

    Arkansas is moving toward legislation that would enable healthcare providers to treat first-time patients via telehealth – though those patients would still have to be sitting in a healthcare facility to take advantage of the service. The Arkansas Legislative Council’s Rules and Regulations Subcommittee has signed off on an amendment to Regulation 2.8 of the state’s Medical Code, permitting a physician licensed in the state to use real-time audio-visual technology to establish a relationship with a first-time patient. The amendment will go into effect in 10 days.

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  • Telehealth Growth, Savings Tied to Parity Laws

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth will only succeed if providers are reimbursed at the same rate as in-person care. That’s the conclusion drawn from a health policy brief developed by Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It argues that the nation’s move from volume-based to value-based healthcare will be accomplished only if providers can be assured of delivering high-value care at a lower cost – and that’s what telehealth promises. “As the United States moves from uncoordinated, volume-based delivery of health services to an integrated, patient-centric, value-based model, healthcare delivery will increasingly focus on achieving higher-quality care, improved care access and lower costs,” the brief states. “In enabling healthcare organizations to provide high-quality, ‘anytime, anywhere’ care to patients and operate more cost effectively, telehealth programs play an important role in achieving these goals.” Unfortunately, the brief points out, we have a ways to go to reach that goal.

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