Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • 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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  • How Technology Upgrades Sparked a Financial Resurgence at Two Rural Hospitals

    FierceHealthcare

    On his second day as CEO of Coteau des Prairies (CDP) Health Care System in Sisseton, South Dakota, Michael Coyle had to borrow $500,000 to make payroll. That was just the start of the hospital’s financial struggles. CDP is a 25-bed critical access hospital located about 160 miles north of Sioux Falls on the edge of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. When Coyle arrived in December 2014, the hospital faced an array of financial issues, most of which were tied to delinquent payments from Indian Health Services. Several years earlier, the hospital saw a massive increase of ER visits after the reservation demolished its hospital and replaced it with a medical clinic. Throw in an influx of Medicaid patients and lapsed training for billing and coders, and the hospital quickly found itself operating in the red by the time Coyle arrived.

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  • Telemedicine Legislation Takes Aim at Chronic Kidney Disease

    mHealth Intelligence

    The latest telemedicine legislation to appear on Capitol Hill seeks to make digital health a key component of treatment for chronic kidney disease treatment. The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act of 2017 (H.R. 2644), re-introduced last month by U.S. Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), would, among other things, loosen the restrictions on telemedicine to treat kidney patients in their homes. It’s one of a growing number of bills filed this year that seek to make telemedicine and telehealth a more acceptable standard of care, often by relaxing Medicare and Medicaid guidelines to improve access and reimbursement. Roughly 30 million Americans, or 15 percent of the adult population, are affected by chronic kidney disease. Of that number, more than 660,000 have kidney failure, and almost 470,000 are on dialysis. More than 193,000, meanwhile, have a functioning kidney transplant, which requires them to follow a very strict daily medication regimen. 

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  • Georgia Payer Pushes Telehealth to Replace Unnecessary ER Visits

    mHealth Intelligence

    A Georgia insurer is taking strong steps to promote telehealth as a replacement for most emergency room visits. Starting in July, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia will stop reimbursing for ER visits deemed to be unnecessary. The payer is recommending that its members use BCBSGa’s LiveHealth Online telehealth service, or visit the nearest urgent care or retail health clinic. "The cost of care's been going up so much faster than people's earnings,” BCBSGa President Jeff Fusile told Atlanta’s WABE public radio station.  “We have got to find a better way to do some of this stuff, taking some of that unnecessary spending out of the system.” The insurer is taking steps to ensure that its members know when they should visit an ER. According to a May 19 letter to members, the restriction won’t be applied to children under 13, Sunday or holiday visits or instances in which the member is more than 15 miles from the nearest urgent care clinic. 

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  • Telemedicine At Home: New Vermont Law Expands Health Insurance For 21st-Century Treatment

    VPR; Vermont's NPR News Source

    Health insurance in Vermont will soon be required to cover medical care delivered via telemedicine, even if the patient receiving the treatment isn't at a doctor's office. The University of Vermont Medical Center already works with Rutland Regional Medical Center to give Rutland patients access to UVM's health specialists without hours of driving, and officials say the program is a success. According to numbers from the UVM Medical Center, its specialists have given more than 550 neurology consults to patients in Rutland using telemedicine since the beginning of 2015, and just 15 of those patients required in-person follow-up care at UVM Medical Center. The rest completed their treatment in Rutland. 

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  • Mobile Health Units Put the Emphasis on Access for mHealth

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers around the country are taking a literal approach to mobile health these days. They’re customizing RVs, vans, buses and ambulances with telemedicine tools and wireless connectivity to bring healthcare to underserved populations, reduce time to treatment in emergencies and make life easier for schoolchildren and their parents. In Flagstaff, Ariz., a mobile medical unit affectionately called the “Big Orange Bus” is on the road almost every day of the week in this city of 70,000, visiting businesses, schools and homeless shelters and generally serving as a roving resource for North Country HealthCare’s outreach to underserved neighborhoods. 

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  • FCC's Net Neutrality Reversal Threatens Telehealth, Remote Monitoring and Data Sharing

    Fierce Healthcare

    Changes to net neutrality rules will have a significant impact on health IT innovation, particularly for rural providers, according to a group of informatics and public health experts. Under the new leadership of Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to overturn net neutrality rules established by the Obama administration. An overhaul would allow telecommunications companies to treat some businesses more favorably than others and raise connection fees for hospitals. That approach “threatens the well-being of many people, particularly those at risk for health disparities due to low income or rural residency,” a group of researchers from St. Louis University, the Medical University of South Carolina and Harvard University wrote in a post for Health Affairs Blog. 

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  • With New Texas Law, Telemedicine Passes an Important Milestone

    mHealth Intelligence

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s endorsement of new telemedicine regulations means the nation has finally agreed that a physician-patient relationship can be established through a virtual visit. With Abbott’s signature on SB 1107/HB 2697, Texas becomes the last state to allow physicians to connect with new patients via telehealth, rather than having to first meet in person. The action puts to rest a long-simmering debate between telemedicine advocates and healthcare providers over whether the telehealth visit can be treated with the same weight as an in-person visit. The new law also establishes that telemedicine visits have to be held to the same standards of care as in-person visits. 

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  • What Happens to Telemedicine if We Lose Net Neutrality?

    Healthcare DIVE

    The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 on May 18 to review the rules that regulate internet service providers. Over the following 90 days it will collect comments from stakeholders and the public before drafting new rules that would give the ISPs more control over which information got priority on their networks, effectively ending “net neutrality.” So, what happens to telemedicine without this oversight? Rural and underserved communities with fewer choices of ISPs will likely receive diminished care, at slower speeds and higher cost, than patients in more urban, affluent communities according to net neutrality proponents in the healthcare industry. Adding cloud image management provides more value for physicians and patients alike. But how do you know if you're ready to upgrade your PACS? Some provider groups see the situation as more dire. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated, “Establishing a system of paid prioritization is contrary to the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.”

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  • Texas Law Marks Turning Point in Telemedicine

    MedCity News

    Over the weekend, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law, changing the face of telemedicine in the state. With Abbott’s signature on Senate Bill 1107, physicians can now utilize telemedicine services with patients they haven’t met in person. This quashes an earlier requirement that physician-patient relationships had to be established with an in-person visit first. Texas was the last state to still uphold this requirement, according to Politico. Now that it’s abolished, direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies can expand their services across the nation. Though technically, there are still limitations on phone call-based telemedicine in Arkansas and Idaho. This is good news for companies like Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, American Well and MDLive. Teladoc is especially cheering. The telehealth provider has been entwined in a six-year legal battle with the Texas Medical Board regarding the scope of telemedicine in the Lone Star State.

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  • Telehealth Tackles Medicaid’s Challenges with eConsult Program

    mHealth Intelligence

    A first-of-its-kind telehealth program launched in Connecticut two years ago is reducing unnecessary spending, improving care coordination for the hard-to-reach Medicaid population and making primary care doctors more confident in their abilities, simply by using online messaging to determine if specialist referrals are necessary. The eConsult program developed by Community Health Center in 2015 is now being used in some nine states, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, and has spawned a network of similar programs across the country. Its premise is simple: Give doctors an online resource to ask a few questions and perhaps get a little reassurance that they’re doing the right thing. 

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  • USDA Offers Distance Learning, Telemedicine Grant Opportunities

    AAFP

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a call for applications(www.rd.usda.gov) for parties interested in receiving rural telemedicine or distance learning grants. The competitive grants, to be awarded in fiscal year 2017, are made available through the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program,(www.rd.usda.gov) which provides funds to improve telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas. The USDA posted an announcement about the available grants in the May 16 Federal Register.(www.gpo.gov). According to that announcement, eligible applicants -- specifically, incorporated organizations or partnerships; other legal entities, including private for-profit or nonprofit corporations; state and local governments; federally recognized Indian tribes or tribal organizations; and consortia comprising these eligible entities -- have until July 17 to submit applications for competitive grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.

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  • Telemedicine Bill Advances in Senate After Conversion to Study

    News and Record

    Legislative supporters of putting telemedicine on equal footing with other health-care services have agreed to take a one-step-back approach in hopes of gathering more evidence to back their cause. House Bill 283 cleared the Senate Health Care Committee unanimously on Wednesday. It now heads to the Senate committee on Rules and Operations. Demand for telemedicine has grown in recent years, with the service particularly aimed at individuals who live in rural areas and/or who have difficulty getting to a hospital. The bill, with Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) as primary sponsor, was introduced March 8 with the requirement that insurers provide standard coverage and reimbursements for telemedicine and other digital services. The bill would have prohibited insurers from treating telemedicine differently solely because it is not provided as an in-person delivery of service or consultations.

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  • How Two NewYork-Presbyterian Pharmacists Tapped Into Telehealth to Improve Care for Transplant Patients

    FierceHealthcare

    Medication adherence is an important aspect of any patient's care. But the stakes are just a little bit higher when that patient has just undergone an organ transplant. For a transplant patient, missing an antirejection dose isn’t like forgetting your daily cholesterol pill. That’s one reason that two pharmacists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital decided to start seeing patients virtually—an approach that allows them to maintain continuity of care after discharge from the hospital while expanding the hospital's service to patients that would otherwise end up in the emergency department. Nicholas Jandovitz, PharmD, clinical pharmacy manager in the kidney and pancreas transplantation program and Demetra Tsapepas, PharmD, the program’s director of quality and research at the New York City-based hospital, recognized two problems facing all transplant patients: They often needed followup care and medication guidance after they were discharged, but the hospital lacked the clinic space to allow pharmacists to see patients in a designated outpatient setting. 

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  • Congress Considers Multiple Telehealth Bills

    Medscape

    Pressure within Congress to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth and remote monitoring services is approaching critical mass. Multiple bills have recently been introduced with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and a new bipartisan Congressional Telehealth Caucus has been formed in the House. The four members of congress who initiated that caucus — Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif), Gregg Harper (R-Mass), Diane Black (R-Tenn), and Peter Welch (D-Vt) — also on May 19 launched two related pieces of legislation, the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act and the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017. Both bills are being reintroduced from previous sessions of Congress in which they failed to advance.

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