Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Hospitals Turn to Telemedicine to Tackle ER Triage, Overcrowding

    mHealth Intelligence

    A telemedicine platform that helps emergency departments triage patients just might be the answer to crowded ERs and physician staffing issues.   The virtual visit platform, developed by the Wisconsin-based startup EmOpti, is currently being used in eight hospitals in four health systems: Wisconsin’s Aurora Health Care, MedStar in Washington D.C., Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare.  In those hospitals, patients admitted to the ED who aren’t immediately seen by a doctor can be seen by secure video-conferencing technology by a doctor or physician assistant in a remote “command center.” The physician or PA examines the patient with the help of on-site triage nurses and can order tests or prescribe medications.

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  • Telemedicine Advocates Cry Foul Over FCC’s Net Neutrality Plan

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth and telemedicine experts are warning that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to scrap net neutrality rules could seriously damage telehealth expansion in rural parts of the country and create a two-tiered system for telemedicine connectivity. “All hospitals consume huge amounts of bandwidth. All hospitals have wireless connectivity,” says Robert Annas, senior managing director at SOLIC Capital and chief operating officer for Eagle Telemedicine. “Limiting that is not the answer.” Pai has scheduled an FCC vote on December 14 to end net neutrality, which requires Internet Service Providers to allot the same bandwidth to all sites and prevents them from delaying, slowing or charging extra for bandwidth. “One aspect of this proposal I think is worth highlighting here is the flexibility it would give for prioritizing services that could make meaningful differences in the delivery of healthcare.,” he said in a Nov. 30 speech.” By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization - such as latency-sensitive telemedicine.  Now, we can’t predict exactly which innovations entrepreneurs will come up with.  But by replacing an outright ban with a robust transparency requirement and FTC-led consumer protection, we will enable these services to come into being and help seniors.”

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  • TripleCare Expands SNF Telemedicine Services in Virginia

    Modern Healthcare

    Telemedicine provider TripleCare is expanding into to more skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.  For the first time, the company will have a presence in Virginia, where it's bringing its telemedicine services to Saber Healthcare Group's facilities. TripleCare already provides services to Saber skilled nursing facilities in Pennsylvania, which are among Saber's 105 facilities across six states.  "An increasing number of SNFs are recognizing that telemedicine can bring added physician services that help them avoid readmissions to hospitals by treating patients in place through virtual bedside visits," said TripleCare CEO Mary Jo Gorman. "In addition to this Saber relationship, we've seen our business grow significantly this past year."  The expansion into Virginia is set to be done by the end of the year.  TripleCare, based in New York City, has contracts with more than 60 skilled nursing facilities in 10 states. Each facility usually works with about four of TripleCare's 30 physicians, which the company says allows for continuity of care. These physicians are paid hourly, rather than on a fee-for-service basis.

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  • Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on advancing new digital health policies to encourage innovation, bring efficiency and modernization to regulation

    FDA

    Today we’re announcing three new, significant policy documents to advance the FDA’s approach to the development and proper oversight of innovative digital health tools. We know that consumers and health care providers are increasingly embracing digital health technologies to inform everyday decisions. From fitness trackers to mobile applications tracking insulin administration, these digital tools can provide consumers with a wealth of valuable health information. Further, clinical evidence demonstrates that consumers who are better informed about health make better and more efficient decisions, take steps to improve their lifestyles and their health choices, and often experience better outcomes.  Given these meaningful benefits from empowering consumers, we believe the FDA must, whenever possible, encourage the development of tools that can help people be more informed about their health.

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  • North Dakota Lawmakers Mull Video-Only Telehealth for First Visits

    mHealth Intelligence

    North Dakota lawmakers are grappling with a proposal to restrict telemedicine in first-time episodic patient care, a move that could prevent rural residents from accessing care online. The state Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee has tabled a proposal to limit first-time telehealth encounters between doctors and new patients to video-only, following complaints from Teladoc and others that the new rule would eliminate phone-, text-based and some store-and-forward consults. The proposal was submitted by the North Dakota Board of Medicine, whose members feel that patients must initially “see” a doctor – either in person or by video – to establish a proper relationship for care. “The intent of the board is to ensure that the standard of care is no different in an in-person meeting with your provider than it would be through a telemedicine meeting,” Bonnie Storbakken, the board’s executive director, said in a written presentation to the committee.

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  • Telehealth Continues Rapid Growth but Regulatory Barriers Persist

    Society for Human Resource Management

    Telehealth is transforming health care, allowing providers to deliver services when and where patients need them, thereby improving outcomes and lowering costs. Legal and regulatory roadblocks, however, still hinder telehealth providers' effectiveness, according to speakers at a Nov. 28 policy forum in Washington, D.C.  More employers are offering—and more employees are using—services that provide diagnosis, treatment or prescriptions following a consultation with a health care professional by phone or computer video.  Several bills introduced in Congress would help to make telehealth more accessible, said health care experts at the forum, sponsored by Health IT Now, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that supports expanding health information technology to improve patient care.  "Employers collectively spend $668 billion on health benefits each year. That's one of the reasons why employers are pursuing a wider array of approaches to reduce health care costs and risk," said Chatrane Birbal, a senior advisor for government relations at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).  

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  • Workers Comp Execs See Telehealth as a Tool to Manage Costs, Outcomes

    mHealth Intelligence

    Nearly half of workers compensation professionals recently surveyed say telehealth and telemedicine will have the biggest impact on the industry in the future. And more than half say it will help them contain rising healthcare costs. Those are the key take-aways from a survey of more than 275 workers comp professionals conducted by IT company Mitchell and Risk & Insurance magazine. It points to a growing belief that digital health can offer a more convenient and cost-effective platform for companies looking to keep their workforce healthy. In this case, industry leaders see telehealth as an important tool in connecting injured employees to healthcare and rehabilitation services, speeding up the recovery process and getting them back into the workforce. “As the workers’ compensation industry continues to navigate the ongoing challenges of rising health care costs and the need to create operational efficiencies, it’s clear that stakeholders are eager to explore the potential benefits of adopting advanced technologies,” Shahin Hatamian, senior vice president of product management and strategy for Mitchell’s Casualty Solutions division, said in a press release.

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  • Senate Bill Aimed at Modernizing VA Health System Includes Telehealth Licensing Provision

    FierceHealthcare

    A bill introduced by two senators on Monday designed to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs includes a provision that would allow physicians to practice telehealth across state lines.  Introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017 (PDF) would consolidate community care authorities into a single program, implement data-driven access and quality standards, improve walk-in care and ensure safe prescribing practices, among a slew of other requirements.  The senators also built in what has become a popular reform, allowing licensed VA physicians to practice telemedicine in any state regardless of where they are located. The language mimics the VETS Act, standalone legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives last month, and a rule proposed by the VA in September designed to support the agency’s “Anywhere-to-Anywhere” telehealth initiative.  

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  • Teladoc Drops Lawsuit Against Texas Medical Board Following Amended Telemedicine Regulations

    Fierce Healthcare

    Teladoc has dropped an antitrust lawsuit against the Texas Board of Medicine after the state finalized new regulations allowing physicians to treat patients virtually without a prior face-to-face interaction. The updated licensing regulations were adopted by the board last month and went into effect on November 26, months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation making Texas the last state in the country to do away with state policy that prevented patients from engaging with physicians via telehealth without a prior in-person interaction. Companies like Teladoc lobbied hard for the passage of the bill, eying new growth opportunities in the state. Last week, days after the new regulations went into effect, the national telehealth provider dropped its antitrust lawsuit against the state medical board that began in 2015 when the board adopted a policy prohibiting physicians from prescribing medication over the phone to patients they hadn’t seen in person. The case was put on hold last year while the state legislature pushed the bill through.

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  • Texas Medical Board Adopts New Telemedicine Policy

    Medscape

    The Texas Medical Board (TMB) has issued a new licensing regulation that allows Texas physicians to treat patients via telemedicine without evaluating them in person beforehand. The new rules, which are substantially the same as those the board proposed in September, follow the requirements of a state law passed last spring. Under the new regulation, the board repealed its requirement that physicians conduct an in-person evaluation before writing a prescription. In addition, the new rules say that telemedicine services need not be provided through an established medical site, as the TMB previously required. The regulation also addresses the requirements for meeting the standard of care, documenting telemedicine services, and communicating with patients. In addition, it requires that physicians who provide telemedicine services to Texas residents be licensed in Texas.

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  • Medicaid Telehealth Growth Triggers Billing Concerns

    Bloomberg BNA

    A surge in claims for Medicaid telehealth services has caught the attention of the U.S. government, which plans to investigate whether billing requirements are being met.  Medicaid telehealth providers can look at the inquiry as a positive step, as it indicates telehealth has grown into a viable service meriting government attention, Nathaniel Lacktman, a health-care attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP in Tampa, Fla., told Bloomberg Law Nov. 28.  Telehealth involves receiving medical care from a physician or other practitioner who’s not physically present. Patients can interact with their doctors through phone calls, video chats, or other electronic methods.  

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  • CMS’ Seema Verma Sees Opportunities for Telehealth, Reveals Her Personal Connection to Interoperability

    FierceHealthcare

    Even the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has trouble getting her hands on a family member’s medical record.  During a keynote address at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s annual meeting on Friday that focused largely on the need to reduce the regulatory burden on hospitals and physician practices, CMS Administrator Seema Verma relayed a story about how a lack of interoperability impacted her on a personal level.  In August, Verma’s husband, Sanjay Mishra, M.D., went into cardiac arrest at an airport while traveling with the couple’s two children. After a battery of tests, Mishra was eventually discharged from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Verma asked the hospital for a copy of her husband’s medical records and test results to take back to his doctor in Indiana.  “The room got really quiet and they kind of looked at each other,” she said. “And it was like, ‘We have no idea what to do here.’”  

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  • Why Telemedicine is the Future in Senior Housing

    Senior Housing News

    Debate remains about the terminology, but one thing is certain: telehealth and telemedicine are becoming cornerstones of health care delivery and stand to significantly improve senior care.  A 2016 survey from the National Business Group on Health found that by 2018, 96% of health systems will be using some form of telehealth in their health care delivery. The term “telehealth” is a broad and often misunderstood one, and does not exactly inspire enthusiasm. Yet its sweeping qualities make it an easy concept to understand: it is the use of digital or electronic technologies in the the delivery of health services.  This can mean anything from teleconference doctor appointments to wearing fitness bands, like a Fitbit, that monitor personal behavior to build a health-related dataset.  It’s not surprising, then, that perhaps more than any other demographic, seniors could see the most upside from telehealth’s three key benefits: access, personalization, and quality.  “Fifty percent of hospital readmissions are actually from those over the age of 65,” said moderator Ginna Baik, strategic business development executive at CDW-Healthcare. “It’s becoming not only a pertinent but most important issue inside of health care in general, as well as the continuum of care in senior care.”  

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  • Telemedicine is Still Hindered by Limited Reimbursement

    Modern Healthcare

    Just as part of the Black Friday madness has moved online, so too has part of Black Friday healthcare, as more people, in their Thanksgiving hangovers, seek care virtually. That reflects not only the fact that telehealth use tends to increase right after a holiday but also a broader shift toward digital care across the seasons.  Doctor On Demand, for instance, had a 25% spike above expected volume on Black Friday 2016, and for Avizia, the days after Christmas and Thanksgiving last year were among the busiest all year.  Likewise, "we see a drop on Thanksgiving and a spike on Black Friday," said Mike Putnam, senior vice president of consumer markets for American Well. But, he added, "people in general are becoming much more aware of telehealth, and we're seeing the number of visits grow quite rapidly."  Over the last year, healthcare executives have heralded telemedicine as the solution to rural healthcare woes, a way to treat people in areas hit by natural disasters, and an efficient cost-cutting measure.  

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  • FCC to Consider Rural Telehealth Proposal in December

    Beckers Hospital Review

    Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, released a proposal to increase funding for the agency's Rural Health Care Program Nov. 22 as part of his tentative agenda for the agency's December meeting.  The meeting, scheduled for Dec. 14 and open to the public, will take place at the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. The meeting will consider the proposal — a notice of proposed rulemaking and order called "Promoting Telehealth in Rural America" — among other items on the agenda, such as the controversial proposition to reverse net neutrality rules.  The Rural Health Care Program provides eligible healthcare providers with funding for broadband and telecommunications services that enhance high-quality care. Under the proposal, the FCC would review the program, with an emphasis on assessing an "appropriate budget level" for its services, according to an agency fact sheet accompanying the proposal.  

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