Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • 6 Insights on State Telehealth Legislation, Reimbursement

    Beckers Hospital Review

    The Center for Connected Health Policy, a nonprofit telehealth policy resource organization, published its fifth annual State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies report. The report details telehealth policies, laws and regulations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. To prepare the report, the Center for Connected Health Policy analyzed state laws, administrative codes and Medicaid provider manuals through March 2017. Here are six report findings:

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  • VETS Act Takes Aim at mHealth, Telehealth Access for Veterans

    mHealth Intelligence

    Legislators on both sides of Capitol Hill have reintroduced a bill that would ease restriction on telehealth and mHealth for veterans, especially those in rural areas. The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 has been reintroduced by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). Companion legislation in the House is being submitted by Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.). “Iowa is home to more than 200,000 veterans, many of whom reside in more rural areas, distant from Iowa’s VA facilities,” Ernst, a National Guard veteran who first submitted the bill in 2015, said in a press release issued after she resubmitted the bill this week. “Telehealth offers another way in which we can provide veterans the care they need, including critical, and potentially lifesaving mental healthcare. The VETS Act will ensure that veterans can receive the timely and quality care they deserve from the comfort of their own homes.” 

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  • Pediatric Telemedicine Poised for Growth Spurt

    Media Health Leaders

    The use of pediatric telemedicine may soon be at a tipping point. A survey this by Nemours Children's Health System shows that while only 15% of the 500 parents who responded to an online query have accessed pediatric telemedicine, 64% plan to use it within the next year for common childhood conditions such as fever and respiratory ailments and for well-child visits. Overall, the percentage of parents who use telemedicine remains small. When compared with a 2014 survey by Nemours, however, the use of online doctors' visits has grown by 125%, and parents' awareness of telemedicine services has increased 88%.

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  • Payers, Providers Seek Common Ground on New Telehealth Services

    mHealth Intelligence

    Healthcare providers are finding that telehealth reimbursement goes well beyond finding the right CPT code. With each state and even the federal government offering different and sometimes conflicting definitions for telemedicine and telehealth, a hospital or health system looking to lunch a digital health platform has to be creative in how it defines value. More and more providers, in fact, are taking it upon themselves to negotiate telehealth coverage with commercial payers. “There’s been some deliberate efforts … to align with [payers] and embrace cooperation on coverage and reimbursement,” says Nathaniel Lacktman, who leads the telemedicine and virtual care practice at the law firm of Foley & Lardner, LLP. “We’re noticeable moving toward that now.” The challenge lies in aligning what the provider wants to do with mobile health or telehealth technology with what the health plan wants to support. For example, a health system might want to create a program enabling patients to trade e-mails with their doctors, but would those conversations by covered by a bundled care plan or carved out as separate discrete medical events?  

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  • Medicare Still Lagging Behind on Telehealth

    Medscape

    Medicare has long been criticized for its narrow restrictions on the coverage and reimbursement of telehealth services. A new report to Congress by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that not much has changed over the years. Mandated by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the GAO report noted that Medicare and the US Department of Defense (DoD) trailed the Veterans Affairs (VA) system in their use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM). On the other hand, the report painted an optimistic picture of Medicare demonstrations and new care delivery models that, it said, might increase the use of telehealth in Medicare. 

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  • 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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