Telehealth in the News

Check out the latest in telehealth news and updates:

  • Telehealth Final Report and Legislative Recommendations Approved

    WJCT

    The state Telehealth Advisory Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a final report and legislative recommendations to remove barriers to the use of telehealth.  Council Chairman Justin Senior, secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration, thanked panel members for their work over the last year and warned them not to get discouraged if the Legislature doesn't turn the proposals into law.  “If it doesn't happen, we'll come back next year and try to do it again,” Senior said.   Among other things, the report recommends that lawmakers require Florida health insurance plans, excluding Medicare plans, to provide reimbursement “parity” for health services provided through telehealth or in person.  The report includes a limit on the recommendation to make clear that the Legislature should “not require insurers to add additional service lines or specialties, mandate fee-for-service arrangements, inhibit value based payment programs, or limit healthcare insurers and practitioners from negotiating contractual coverage terms.”  

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  • Telehealth Barriers Should Be Defined by Access, Not Geography

    mHealth Intelligence

    Telehealth and telemedicine programs aren’t catching on in urban America because reimbursement models are targeting the wrong metric. That’s the opinion of researchers from Princeton University and Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University, who say Medicare payment policies focus on geography rather than access. While rural health systems struggle with access problems related to distance and travel, they say, urban systems are dealing with availability barriers. “[W]hile geography is an important aspect of access to healthcare, it fails to accurately capture the relationship between supply (providers) and demand (patients) within an area,” the researchers – Yash S. Huilgol of Princeton’s Center for Health and Well-Being and Aditi U. Joshi, Brendan G. Carr and Judd E. Hollander of Sidney Kimmel Medical College and Thomas Jefferson University – said in a recent Health Affairs blog. “We are concerned that while rural America has access problems because there are not enough doctors, urban America has access problems because there are not enough appointments.”  

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  • Hawai'i Telehealth Summit: Statewide Resource

    Hawai'i Public Radio

    Telehealth connects a patient and a doctor using computer technology through the internet.  It improves access to care and efficiency and is one of the top priorities for Department of Health Director, Dr. Ginny Pressler.  "We such incredible technology today.  To me it’s not right for particularly elderly, disabled, frail or sick people to have to go to their doctor and have to get there and park; their family member who is taking them has the day off from work.  It doesn’t have to be like that.  I mean, there’s still some things that need to be done in a doctor’s office, face-to-face, but so much of what ‘s going on in healthcare today can be done using technology.”  Hawai’i law also requires health insurance plans and Medicaid to reimburse physicians for telehealth treatment at the same rate as an office visit.  Emergency rooms on the Big Island and the Queens Medical Center on O’ahu are also connected.  Jason Halsey, an accounts manager for telehealth equipment, says a base clinic computer costs about 15-thousand dollars and can be outfitted with other accessories.

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  • Survey: Reimbursement Issues Main Barrier for Telehealth Expansion

    Healthcare DIVE

    The biggest barrier to telehealth expansion, according to the survey, continues to be reimbursement (59%), followed by cost/resources (34%), patient/provider awareness (25%) and licensing/regulation (20%). Respondents also cited a lack of EHR interoperability, with 7 in 10 reporting no integration. The survey also found that 17% said their organization allowed for unidirectional integration of telehealth data, while 14% had bidirectional integration.  “Telehealth holds enormous promise,” Adam Gale, president of KLAS, said in a statement. “However, the underlying technology needs to evolve faster. In particular, integration of telehealth with provider EMRs is still at a primitive level. Vendors need to step up in terms of technology and improved support.” Telehealth is becoming mainstream at many hospitals. In a Reach Health survey earlier this year, 36% of healthcare professionals said their organization takes an enterprise approach to telemedicine and 25% said they are moving from a departmental to enterprise approach.

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  • Joint Commission Pulls Back Proposed Telehealth Standards

    FierceHealthcare

    Months after releasing draft telehealth standards, the Joint Commission has decided not to move forward with proposed changes that would have added new burdens to hospitals and ambulatory care clinics with telehealth programs. In May, the Joint Commission announced a field review of several new standards along with a 36-day comment period. But the organization has since decided to table the standards. “At this time, we have closed the field review and decided not to move forward with the proposed telehealth standards,” Joint Commission spokesperson Katie Looze Bronk said in an email to FierceHealthcare. “We will continue to accept comments and evaluate options.” The decision comes as a relief for telehealth advocates who had raised concerns about several of the proposed standards that would have been more restrictive than the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Conditions of Participation as well as most state regulations. The Joint Commission's proposal would have required hospitals providing direct-to-telehealth services to obtain informed consent from the patient about the type of care provided and the modality used. The Joint Commission already has broad standards that require hospitals to have a policy on informed consent, but the new standards would have added new requirements specifically for telehealth programs. 

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  • Telemedicine Rules in D.C. Get Second Draft

    Healthcare Law Today

    Telemedicine rules in the District of Columbia underwent a second round of revisions as the District of Columbia Department of Health issued a new set of proposed rules . The newly-revised proposed telemedicine rules, issued in July, replace the Department’s first draft of telemedicine regulations issued in early 2016, and incorporate comments submitted by a number of telehealth industry advocates. Other than a 2014 policy statement, the D.C. Medical Board’s current laws are silent as to telemedicine practice.

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  • mHealth Closes The Gaps in Medication Adherence During a Crisis

    mHealth Intelligence

    When Hurricane Harvey battered Houston this past August, public health officials turned to mHealth to make sure patients undergoing treatment for tuberculosis were staying up to date on medication adherence.  With roads flooded, health systems hard to access and many residents displaced, Harris County Public Health’s Dana Wiltz-Beckham used the emocha mobile health app to keep tabs on roughly 60 patients. Patients used the app to record themselves taking their prescribed TB medication, helping Wiltz-Beckham and her staff make sure the treatment plan was being followed.  All but two patients kept to their medication regimens during the two weeks that Harvey affected Houston, says Wiltz-Beckham, the tuberculosis elimination program manager in Harris County Public Health’s Disease Control and Clinical Prevention Department.  

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  • State Telehealth Panel Inches Closer To Final Recommendations

    WJCT News

    To increase the use of telehealth in Florida, a panel is recommending that insurance companies be required to reimburse health-care providers for telehealth services and that the Legislature authorize participation in interstate “compacts” that make it easier for doctors and other providers to be licensed in a variety of states. The Telehealth Advisory Council held a two-hour-plus teleconference Tuesday, with members reviewing a draft copy of a 32-page report that will be sent to the governor and Legislature later this month. Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior, the chairman of the advisory council, said a copy of the report would be posted publicly and that another meeting will held before the panel votes on the final version.  “I really appreciate all the work that has gone into this. I really think it's coming together nicely,” Senior told members of the council.  

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  • HIMSS Makes Its Pitch for Telehealth Legislation, Rural Broadband

    mHealth Intelligence

    One of the nation’s largest healthcare IT organizations is throwing its weight behind a telehealth bill stuck in Congress and investments in broadband infrastructure that would push telemedicine and mHealth into rural America.  The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) made those requests in its 2017 Congressional Asks, putting pressure on lawmakers to improve cybersecurity, adjust Medicare to allow more telehealth and boost funding for rural broadband expansion.  Specifically, HIMSS is asking Congress to pass the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, a bill originally introduced in 2016 that aims to remove roadblocks to telemedicine expansion in Medicare by giving providers the freedom to experiment with telehealth in alternative payment models and incentive programs and expand remote patient monitoring programs for chronic care, remote and underserved populations.  

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  • Senators Focus On Telehealth Broadband Access; Providers Want Payment

    Inside Health Policy

    The Senate Broadband Caucus met with telemedicine providers during a Wednesday (Sept 27) expo in the Senate to discuss expanding broadband to rural areas, but the conversation soon turned instead to telehealth Medicare reimbursement. Medicare only covers telehealth in federally defined rural health professional shortage areas, only eight types of practitioners may deliver telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries from a qualified distant site, and CMS publishes few reimbursement codes for telehealth services -- most of them designated for behavioral health...

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  • VA Looks to Ease Telehealth Regulations

    Modern Healthcare

    The Veterans Affairs Department proposed a rule Friday that would allow VA providers anywhere in the country to conduct telehealth visits with VA patients across state borders, regardless of state licensing.  Giving patients access to providers across state lines is necessary for the VA to grow its telehealth program and increase the number of sites where the VA provides care, wrote Michael Shores, director of regulation policy and management in the VA secretary's office. This rule would amend VA medical regulations to do so. "Eliminating veteran suicide and providing access to mental health care is VA's number one clinical priority, and this proposed rulemaking would improve VA's ability to reach its most vulnerable beneficiaries," Shores wrote.  In fiscal 2016, VA providers saw 702,000 patients via telemedicine in 2.17 million episodes of care. Nearly half of those who received telemedicine care live in rural areas.  

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  • Texas Mulls Telemedicine Coverage for Workers’ Compensation Cases

    mHealth Intelligence

    Texas state officials are considering a new rule that would allow residents in workers’ compensation to use telemedicine – and allow healthcare providers to be reimbursed through Medicare.  The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation recently posted an informal rule that eliminate Medicare-based restrictions on both reimbursement and originating sites for workers’ comp cases. The agency is calling for public comments on the proposed rule through October 23.  “Most states, including Texas, are limited in what they are doing with telemedicine,” Texas DWC Commissioner Ryan Brannan said in a news release. “We’re introducing this rule with the future growth of telemedicine in mind.”  

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  • The Growth of Iowa Telemedicine

    Iowa Public Radio

    Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services including using new technologies like video streaming. This method has been growing in use in recent years, and the topic was the subject of a panel discussion earlier this month at the Iowa Ideas Conference in Cedar Rapids. It was moderated by River to River host Ben Kieffer.  Panelists include Dr. Tim Sagers of Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Dr. Tim Blair of Van Buren County Hospital, Dr. Nicholas Mohr of the University of Iowa, and Kate Klefsad and Eric Einwalter of University of Iowa Health Care.   Sagers says that, "anybody that's living in modern healthcare that doesn't think this becomes a big piece of how we deliver care has their head in the sand."  The panel discusses the challenges in delivery and reimbursement, as well as some hopes for the future of telemedicine. 

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  • Telehealth Bills Get Senate Approval, Good News From CBO

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill to boost telehealth coverage in Medicare Advantage plans would reduce healthcare expenditures by $80 million over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  The CBO’s cost estimate of H.R. 3727 is welcome news for telehealth advocates looking to cut into Medicare’s coverage and reimbursement restrictions and make telehealth and telemedicine and more accepted standard of care. But at the same time, the fate of this and close to a dozen other telehealth-flavored bills rests on a deeply divided Congress that hasn’t had much success passing any legislation of note lately.  The CBO estimate came on the same day that the Senate unanimously passed a much larger telehealth bill, the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017.  S. 870, which aims to push Medicare costs down by improving chronic disease management services and care coordination at home, also received a positive CBO review. But experts say the bill has little chance of making it through the House.

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  • MedPAC Discusses Medicare Payments for Telehealth Services and Utilization Trends

    The National Law Review

    Pursuant to the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, Congress mandated the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (“MedPAC”) to provide a report to Congress by March 15, 2018, in which MedPAC has been asked to answer the following questions:  Under the Medicare Fee-for-Service program (Parts A and B), what is the current coverage of telehealth services?  Currently, what coverage do commercial health plans offer for telehealth services?  In what ways can the Medicare Fee-for-Service program adopt some or all the telehealth service coverage presently found in commercial health plans?  Earlier this month, at the MedPAC public meeting, the Commission presented a general summary regarding the first of these three questions, specifically the Medicare Fee-for-Service program’s current coverage of telehealth services. MedPAC examined four different aspects of the Medicare Fee-for-Service program that currently address coverage of telehealth services: (1) the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule; (2) other Fee-for-Service payment models within the Medicare program (e.g., inpatient / outpatient hospital services); (3) the Medicare Advantage program; and (4) the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation initiatives.

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