Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • 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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  • Healthcare's New Rural Frontier

    Politico

    Just before dusk on an evening in early March, Mimi Rosenkrance set to work on her spacious cattle ranch to vaccinate a calf. But the mother cow quickly decided that just wasn't going to happen. She charged, all 1,000 pounds of her, knocking Rosenkrance over and repeatedly stomping on her. “That cow was trying to push me to China,” Rosenkrance recalls. Dizzy and nauseated, with bruises spreading on both her legs and around her eye, Rosenkrance, 58, nearly passed out. Her son called 911 and an ambulance staffed by volunteers drove her to Lost Rivers Medical Center, a tiny brick hospital nestled on the snowy hills above this remote town in central Idaho. Lost Rivers has only one full-time doctor and its emergency room has just three beds – not much bigger than a summer camp infirmary. But here's what happened to Rosenkrance in the first 90 minutes after she showed up: She got a CT scan to check for a brain injury, X-rays to look for broken bones, an IV to replenish her fluids and her ear sewn back together. The next morning, although the hospital has no pharmacist, she got a prescription for painkillers filled through a remote prescription service. It was the kind of full-service medical treatment that might be expected of a hospital in a much larger town. 

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  • The Hospital of the Future Has Arrived

    Telemedicine Magazine

    Looking like it could have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the four story, 125,000 square foot Mercy Virtual Care Center screams modern even before you enter it. A reflecting pool leads from the exterior façade into the spacious lobby. Accents of color compliment elegant white, wooden, and stone surfaces welcoming visitors, while prominent digital LED displays showcase cross-fading historical photos. But it’s the second floor of the Center that most evokes the future of medicine. It’s like you’ve stepped into a massive, perpetually buzzing, super secret society, liberally dotted with seemingly futuristic technology and a knot of specially trained staff, diligently going about its business in tightly choreographed coordination. Providing care to patients both nearby and far—but none in the $54 million first-of-its-kind facility itself—330 specialized medical professionals monitor 2,431 patient beds, of which 458 are occupied by the critically ill. 

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  • Momentum Builds To Expand Medicare's Telehealth Coverage

    Forbes

    Rare bipartisan healthcare legislation has emerged to broaden access to telehealth services for seniors covered by Medicare. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan), would “expand access to healthcare in both rural and urban areas to cover additional telehealth services” than the more limited Medicare benefit under the program today. American Well and other telehealth providers like Teladoc and MDLive would benefit from expanded Medicare coverage Credit: American Well Companies like American Well are growing rapidly, providing telemedicine services to health plans, employers and physicians. It’s the latest potential expansion of insurance coverage via telehealth, which offers access to physicians and patients via smartphone, tablet or computer. Employers and private insurers are already embracing the trend as a way to make healthcare more convenient and avoid costly and unnecessary trips to the emergency room or a more expensive physician’s office. 

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  • Blues in Michigan Work to Promote Telemedicine

    Healthcare Informatics

    Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network of Michigan are working with 23 physician organizations with the aim to promote telemedicine services, according to a report in Crain’s Detroit Business. In the report, author Jay Greene noted that Blue Cross officials have discussed plans to expand such telemedicine services as electronic visits initiated by patients, urgent care visits and other online reimbursed services like scheduled primary care visits, specialist consultations, care management and behavioral health. And, the Michigan Blues also are expected to create additional financial incentives under their physician group incentive program, a quality improvement program for medical groups. "We found a great deal of interest in telehealth after including a series of questions about it in our 2016 PGIP Physician Organization survey," Margaret Mason, Blue Cross health care value business consultant, said in a statement, per the Crain’s report. 

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  • THE TRANSFORMATION IMPERATIVE

    Modern Healthcare

    One year of healthcare spending can buy 15 iPhones. Or, it can buy over 3,000 gallons of milk. Or, if you want to look at it in relative terms, U.S. healthcare spending, which in 2015 hit nearly $10,000 for every person in the country, was 29% higher than the next most expensive country, Luxembourg. No matter how you size it up, what the U.S. spends each year on healthcare is a lot of money. That’s why there’s near-universal agreement that, no matter what happens in Washington over the next few years, the pressure on healthcare providers to transform the delivery system into one that achieves better outcomes at lower costs in a more patient- and consumer-friendly way will only grow more intense. As that pressure builds, a whole new “innovation” industry within healthcare has come into existence. It includes startups looking to help existing providers improve the efficiency of their operations; the quality, safety and outcomes of their care; and their patient or customer relations.  

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  • Telehealth Licensing Compact Goes Live in 7 Member States

    mHealth Intelligence

    Members of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact are now accepting applications from physicians interested in practicing telehealth across state lines. The Federation of State Medical Boards has announced that the compact went live on Thursday, April 6, giving physicians in member states an expedited process for obtaining licenses to practice in multiple states. Under terms of the compact, each member state retains its right to regulate clinicians and take punitive action, if necessary. The process hasn’t been easy. A dispute with the FBI over access to its criminal background check system is delaying the compact in 11 states. For the time being, only physicians in Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming can apply to be licensed in one of more of the 18 member states.  The other member states, to date, are Montana, South Dakota, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Mississippi. Eight other states – Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., Tennessee, Georgia and Texas – have introduced legislation to join the compact.  

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  • New Bill Would Expand Beneficiaries’ Access to Telehealth

    HealthData Management

    A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday reintroduced a bill seeking to improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic diseases by, among other provisions, expanding access to telehealth services. The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017 was reintroduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.), co-chairs of the Finance Committee Chronic Care Working Group. The bill (S. 870) contains major telehealth provisions targeted at patients with chronic conditions, including expanding the ability of home dialysis beneficiaries to receive required monthly clinical assessments using telehealth, beginning in 2019. 

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  • CMS Report Finds Emory's eICU Program Reduced Hospital Stays and Saved Millions, While Easing the ICU Provider Shortage

    Emory News Center

    Emory's Electronic ICU (eICU) Program has proven to be a valuable asset for intensive care patients and their hospital care teams, not just at Emory Healthcare but also in the community hospital setting. A report, created by Abt Associates for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has found that Emory's eICU innovation program, started three years ago, reduced length of patient stays in the ICU, resulted in fewer readmissions, reduced costs by millions of dollars and helped solve the shortage of intensivists -- critical care physicians who work primarily in ICUs. 

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  • Senate Bill would Let Medicare Test Telehealth Expansion

    Modern Healthcare

    A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last week would let Medicare experiment with covering more telehealth services. Under the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), selected hospitals would be allowed to test offering telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries in cooperation with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The CMMI would independently evaluate the tested telehealth for cost, effectiveness, and quality of care. If one of the evaluated models succeeds in testing, it then would be covered throughout Medicare.  

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  • States Continue Trend to Reduce Telemedicine Barriers

    The National Law Review

    In 2016 and now in early 2017, state legislatures and regulatory boards continue to enact laws and rules setting telemedicine practice standards. Such standards generally include clarifying the definition of telemedicine aTelemedicine Visits well as providing standards related to prescribing in an online setting, patient informed consent, treatment of medical records generated during a telemedicine encounter, and confidentiality. A recent survey conducted by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) found that telemedicine standards are the number one priority for state medical boards going into 2017. Unlike prior years where state legislatures would enact general telemedicine practice standards and allow state medical or other regulatory boards to issue detailed standards, in 2016 and early 2017, we have observed an unprecedented number of state legislatures enacting detailed telemedicine statutes

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  • Can Tech Speed Up Emergency Room Care?

    The Wall Street Journal

    The emergency-room doctor needed to take a closer look at the stitches above Gilbert Winter’s eye. “Let me just zoom in a little closer,” said Peter Greenwald, an emergency-medicine physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan. “I just need you to hold your head as still as possible.” Dr. Greenwald was talking through a computer screen. Mr. Winter—a 75-year-old construction-company consultant who had suffered a number of injuries from a fall the previous week—was sitting in a small, private room in the hospital’s emergency department, elsewhere in the complex. The next frontier in digital health may be one of the most unlikely: the emergency room. The Emergency Department Express Care program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine is among the first telemedicine programs of its kind in the emergency department of an academic hospital. The goal: to reduce waiting times and get patients with non-urgent cases in and out of the emergency room efficiently without compromising care. ‘What’s the number-one complaint of patients in the emergency room?” says Rahul Sharma, the emergency physician-in-chief at Weill Cornell. “Wait time.” For patients who have opted to use the Express Care program—only offered to patients with minor injuries or complaints—the total amount of time spent in the ER has dropped to 35 to 40 minutes, from an average of 2 to 2.5 hours, he says. 

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  • What Are the Effects of Telemedicine in a Safety Net setting?

    MedCityNews

    How well does telemedicine work in a safety net healthcare setting? Pretty well, it turns out. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed the effect of a teleretinal diabetic retinopathy screening program on both screening wait times and screening rates in the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. The LAC DHS, which serves underinsured and uninsured patients, is “the largest publicly operated county safety net health care system in the United States,” the study points out. It serves more than 800,000 patients each year. Diabetic retinopathy, the top cause of working-age adult blindness in the United States, impacts more than 5.3 million Americans, according to a study in The Lancet. And it isn’t rare in the Los Angeles area — a study in Ophthalmology found the prevalence of DR among diabetic Latinos ages 40 and up in Los Angeles was just under 50 percent. The JAMA Internal Medicine study also notes that the retinal exam wait times for newly diagnosed diabetes patients in LAC DHS have been at least eight months, if not longer. 

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  • Report: Telehealth’s Economic Impact Could Have Broad Reach in Rural Communities

    FierceHealthcare

    Telehealth could save hospitals in rural parts of the country an average of $81,000 annually. But that economic impact would likely spread throughout the community, cutting down on travel costs for patients and boosting revenues for other healthcare providers. The estimates were published in a report (PDF) by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, which used economic data from 24 rural hospitals in four states to calculate the potential costs savings of a telehealth program for community members and hospitals. Although hospitals would likely see costs decline after reducing the number of full-time providers and utilizing specialists in urban areas, patients would see dramatic reductions in travel costs and lost wages. Community members would save an average of $24,000 each year in travel costs, and recoup nearly $17,000 in lost wages for patients traveling farther to receive specialty care. 

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  • Physicians Sour on States’ Telehealth Implementation Efforts

    mHealth Intelligence

    Some 44 percent of U.S. doctors say their state hasn’t done a good job implementing telehealth, while only 15 percent feel their state has done well or very well. The results come by way of the online physician community SERMO, which recently polled more than 1,650 U.S. physicians on their state’s efforts at supporting telemedicine and mobile health programs. A similar poll among 1,831 international physicians found 19 percent rating their country favorably in its telehealth implementation, while 43 percent had negative reviews. Doctors in most states opted for a middle-of-the-road evaluation of their state’s efforts, casting a vote for “fair.” Still, in almost every state, negative opinions outnumbered positive ones. 

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