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  • 2021 National Telemedicine Summit

    2021 National Telemedicine Summit World Conference Forum, LLC Sept. 13, 2021 Key Strategies to Revolutionize & Transform Healthcare Delivery, Optimize Quality Patient Care & Outcomes, Increase Accessibility, Enhance Data Analytics, and Reduce Costs! September 13 – 14, 2021 • The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach • Miami, FL Today, telemedicine is one of the fastest growing sectors in healthcare. Specifically, COVID-19 has enhanced and accelerated the role that telemedicine plays within our healthcare system. It is reshaping the landscape of healthcare delivery in the United States, and is being recognized as the future of global healthcare. Telehealth addresses and achieves the basic tenants of Healthcare Reform: providing the population with access to improved and convenient, high quality patient centric care, enhancing outcomes, while reducing per capita expenditures. Today, more than 70 percent of hospitals throughout the United States are engaged in telehealth programs. Studies have shown that the benefits of telehealth include significantly improved outcomes, efficient care delivery as well as reduction in mortality rates, hospitalizations, length of stay, readmissions and healthcare costs. Telehealth has greatly enhanced access to quality care in rural areas and patient satisfaction has increased due to its convenience and patient centric approach. We have created an exciting, high level forum featuring knowledgeable leaders and executives from the nation's leading Hospitals and Health Systems who will share their perspectives, valuable insights and expertise on how to be best equipped for the rapidly evolving and exciting landscape of telehealth. This exclusive event targets senior level executives in order to maximize educational and networking opportunities. By attending the 2021 National Telemedicine Summit, you will learn what highly regarded Hospitals and Health Systems are doing to be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead in 2021 and beyond! We look forward to greeting you in Miami! Link: < Previous News Next News >

  • News

    Q&A: How retail healthcare, telehealth trends could evolve in 2023 Sanjula Jain, senior vice president of market strategy and chief research officer at Trilliant Health, discusses the future of virtual care and how emerging retail players will affect the industry. December 16, 2022 Read More UCHealth slashes code blues up to 70% with telehealth technologies The academic medical center uses tele-sitter and virtual ICU platforms for a program it calls Virtual Deterioration. December 20, 2022 Read More Leveraging Telehealth Platforms to Enhance Provider Workflows, Adoption Implementing a telehealth platform can positively impact provider workflows in numerous ways, including easing administrative burdens, thereby leading to greater provider adoption and satisfaction. December 28, 2022 Read More Telehealth helps stop suicidal ideation for many patients, study finds One person dies from suicide every 11 minutes in the U.S. A new study shows that telemedicine can be used to treat more severe mental illness – contrary to previous thought. December 29, 2022 Read More Telehealth May Be Rural Healthcare’s Lifeline As a new year dawns, it seems like a stock-taking time in U.S. healthcare. Skyrocketing costs, underwater margins, a depleted workforce and sicker patients have most hospitals and systems thinking existential thoughts about 2023, none more so than rural facilities. December 28, 2022 Read More Industry News

  • The 13 telehealth platforms physicians use the most

    The 13 telehealth platforms physicians use the most Katie Adams March 24, 2022 Telephone and Zoom are the two telehealth platforms physicians use the most, according to survey results released March 23 by the American Medical Association. Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, the AMA presented 1,657 physicians with a list of telehealth platforms and asked them to identify which ones they have used. Here are those platforms, along with the number of physicians who use them: 1. Audio-only telephone visits (723) 2. Zoom (600) 3. Doximity Video (439) 4. EHR telehealth module or tools (433) 5. (344) 6. Telehealth vendor (340) 7. FaceTime (269) 8. Patient Portal (234) 9. Microsoft Teams (92) 10. Texting (89) 11. Skype (48) 12. Remote patient monitoring tools (46) 13. Asynchronous messaging app (30) Copyright © 2022 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy. < Previous News Next News >

  • Rural Providers Weigh Telehealth Investment Against Regulatory Uncertainty

    Rural Providers Weigh Telehealth Investment Against Regulatory Uncertainty Holly Vossel June 8, 2022 Hospices are leveraging expanded telehealth options to maximize access for hard-to-reach rural patients despite lingering regulatory uncertainties. Case in point, the Providence Institute for Human Caring last year launched a tele-palliative care program aimed at addressing rural patients’ unmet needs. Thus far, the initiative has yielded positive results, but the process hasn’t always been easy, according to Dr. Gregg VandeKieft, executive medical director of the institute’s Palliative Practice Group. Snags along the way included dairy cows blocking staff from reaching patients. “For the first time we’re able to offer equitable access to specialty palliative care services for patients who need and want them in this rural setting,” VandeKieft told local news. “But we often have to balance providing health care with the time schedules and welfare of livestock, crops and other realities of rural living.” Washington-based Providence Health System provides a range of facility- and home-based care, including senior services and hospice. The company has more than 119,000 employees serving communities in six states. The TelePC program has increased care collaboration between Providence and the patients’ other providers, including family caregivers. It has also reduced travel time for the palliative care team and curbed unnecessary patient transfers and recurring hospitalizations. Hospice and palliative care providers have wrangled for decades with obstacles that complicate access to rural patients and make their care more expensive. For starters, rural regions are less likely to have a Medicare-certified hospice than urban counties. The service areas of the nearest hospices may not extend far enough to reach some of the people in those zones. When rural patients do have a provider in range, those hospices do their best to deliver care while contending with lower patient volumes, a smaller labor pool, long-travel times between home visits and the resulting travel costs. Some of the challenges are very unique to rural areas, like livestock schedules, lack of nearby caregiver support and limited internet bandwidth capacity. Telehealth has been an important part of improving providers’ ability to reach rural patient populations, according to Dr. Michael Fratkin, chief medical officer for ResolutionCare, a Vynca company. Fratkin founded palliative care provider ResolutionCare in 2015. Advanced care planning technology company Vynca acquired the company last year in its first move into the clinical care space. The pressures on rural providers go beyond the logistical. A successful tele-palliative care program requires not only greater access to high-speed internet in those areas, but also the confidence of the people they serve. Many rural residents place a lower value on telehealth services compared to the in-person care they are used to, said Fratkin. “The advantages of telehealth are the gain of seeing people at home and instantaneously sharing space with them,” Fratkin told Hospice News. “We are not physically entering their private space, not requiring them or staff to drive. What’s most important is creating that safe space to share. There are biases that virtual care is second rate. We have to blast through these biases. They are a bigger barrier to palliative and hospice care than dairy cows.” Then came the pandemic, and with it broad expansion of how providers can use telehealth — at least for the time being. Rapid deployment of telemedicine during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) has created “a new pathway” for bringing palliative and hospice care specialists to rural areas, according to authors of a recent report published in the JAMA Health Forum. Additional studies further support the claim that changes to telehealth policy improved access. But without further regulatory or legislative action, those pathways will close when the federally declared emergency ends. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) most recently extended the PHE period to expire in July. The agency has not indicated whether or not they will renew it. As hospices navigate how they will use telehealth in the long-term, these uncertainties put them in a bind. Many are trying to weigh the benefits of telehealth investments against the possibility that they may soon have to shut down or cut back those programs. One factor policymakers might need to consider is that people may now expect that these services will remain available to them. The events of the past two years have opened the eyes of many patients to telehealth’s potential , according to Fratkin. “The pandemic telehealth experiment is unmeasured, but what we’ve discovered by being thrust into this experiment is that I don’t think patients want to give it up,” Fratkin told Hospice News. “They discovered the value of communications technology allowing them to stay in their lives and not interrupt care. Some of these providers are running back to the status quo as if it was working, but we’re going forward, not backward in this.” < Previous News Next News >

  • NCQA Report: 3 Strategies to Close Telehealth Access Gaps

    NCQA Report: 3 Strategies to Close Telehealth Access Gaps Mark Melchionna May 16, 2022 The National Committee for Quality Assurance released a telehealth report that highlighted care disparities and strategies for improvement. May 16, 2022 - Prioritizing individual preferences and patient needs, breaking down regulatory barriers, and leveraging technology in an equitable manner can go a long way toward addressing the growing disparities in telehealth use, according to a white paper released by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). The white paper, titled The Future of Telehealth Roundtable, discusses ways to close gaps in telehealth use and access. The NCQA is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the quality of care and certifying various healthcare groups. Dig Deeper Pressure on Congress to Solidify Telehealth Access Builds GOP, Independent Senators Co-Sponsor Medicare Telehealth Access Bill Lawmakers Ask Congress to Create a Rural Telehealth Access Task Force As virtual care grows amid the COVID-19 pandemic, The Future of Telehealth Roundtable highlighted various areas that could be enhanced. The white paper derives from an October 2021 conference consisting of telehealth and technology experts from several prominent healthcare organizations, including MedStar Health. The experts noted that despite the expected benefits associated with telehealth, such as convenience and lower costs, disparities still exist within specific communities. According to the white paper, three strategies could help close care gaps as telehealth is further implemented. The first is creating telehealth services that cater to personal patient preferences and needs, as some individuals may face struggles due to their primary language and socioeconomic status. The second is addressing regulatory barriers to access and changing regulations to allow expanded clinician eligibility for licensure. The final strategy is ensuring that digital technology can be leveraged efficiently. For example, considering patient access levels to technology is critical because it determines how patients can be reached and how to best care for them. “Even prior to the pandemic, a change in healthcare delivery was on the horizon with ever-evolving advancements in technology,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane, in an accompanying press release. “As virtually based care expands, unique patient needs and preferences must be identified and prioritized so that telehealth can help us close the gaps in healthcare and not widen existing disparities.” The Future of Telehealth Roundtable also emphasized the continuing popularity of telehealth and that it will hold a place in the new normal. But as the implementation process continues with new technology, avoiding the digital divide is necessary to eliminate disparities. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, various studies have emphasized pinpointing the potential barriers to telehealth access. One study published in February revealed that Black patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) prefer recording and sharing blood pressure (BP) via a text-based program rather than an online patient portal. This is likely because the patient portal has higher technical requirements than text-based communication. Further, research published last November shows that patients with limited English proficiency were less likely to use video when accessing virtual services during the pandemic than adults who could speak English comfortably. For full article: < Previous News Next News >

  • Biden-Harris Administration Announces Availability of Up To $500 Million in Emergency Rural Health Care Funds Under the American Rescue Plan

    Biden-Harris Administration Announces Availability of Up To $500 Million in Emergency Rural Health Care Funds Under the American Rescue Plan U.S. Department of Agriculture August 2021 Funding Will Expand Access to COVID-19 Vaccines, Health Care Services and Food Assistance in Rural America The Biden-Harris Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making up to $500 million available in grants to help rural health care facilities, tribes and communities expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, health care services and nutrition assistance. President Biden’s comprehensive plan to recover the economy and deliver relief to the American people is changing the course of the pandemic and providing immediate relief to millions of households, growing the economy and addressing the stark, intergenerational inequities that have worsened in the wake of COVID-19. “Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is playing a critical role to help rural America build back better and equitably as the nation continues to respond to the pandemic,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Through the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants, USDA will help rural hospitals and local communities increase access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing, medical supplies, telehealth, and food assistance, and support the construction or renovation of rural health care facilities. These investments will also help improve the long-term viability of rural health care providers across the nation.” Background: Beginning today, applicants may apply for two types of assistance: Recovery Grants and Impact Grants. The Biden-Harris Administration is making Recovery Grants available to help public bodies, nonprofit organizations and tribes provide immediate COVID-19 relief to support rural hospitals, health care clinics and local communities. These funds may be used to increase COVID-19 vaccine distribution and telehealth capabilities; purchase medical supplies; replace revenue lost during the pandemic; build and rehabilitate temporary or permanent structures for health care services; support staffing needs for vaccine administration and testing; and support facility and operations expenses associated with food banks and food distribution facilities. Recovery Grant applications will be accepted on a continual basis until funds are expended. The Administration also is making Impact Grants available to help regional partnerships, public bodies, nonprofits and tribes solve regional rural health care problems and build a stronger, more sustainable rural health care system in response to the pandemic. USDA encourages applicants to plan and implement strategies to: -develop health care systems that offer a blend of behavioral care, primary care and other medical services; -support health care as an anchor institution in small communities; and -expand telehealth, electronic health data sharing, workforce development, transportation, paramedicine, obstetrics, behavioral health, farmworker health care and cooperative home care. Impact Grant applications must be submitted to your local USDA Rural Development State Office by 4:00 p.m. local time on Oct. 12, 2021. For additional information, please see the notice (PDF, 343 KB) in today’s Federal Register. USDA encourages potential applicants to review the application guide at USDA Rural Development is prioritizing projects that will support key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help rural America build back better and stronger. Key priorities include combatting the COVID-19 pandemic; addressing the impacts of climate change; and advancing equity in rural America. For more information, visit Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit . If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page. USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit . < Previous News Next News >

  • Telehealth: How Asynchronous Communication Creates Provider Efficiencies

    Telehealth: How Asynchronous Communication Creates Provider Efficiencies Many Roth, Health Leaders April 2021 Presbyterian Healthcare Services reduces online "visits" to two minutes per encounter versus 15 to 18 minutes for real-time virtual visits. At the beginning of 2020, physicians and consumers had not yet fully embraced the concept of virtual video visits; many were skeptical about the ability to deliver care effectively in this manner. Yet after the pandemic forced the adoption of virtual visits, perceptions and usage forever changed. Today, asynchronous communication faces the same hurdles. Providers and patients don't understand how it works and question its value. "It's a technology whose time has not yet come," says Oliver Lignell, vice president of virtual health at health system consultancy AVIA, which helps members accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. "It's not yet mainstream, but it should be." Presbyterian Healthcare Services, an Albuquerque, New Mexico–based nonprofit integrated healthcare delivery system, began investigating this approach to healthcare four years ago. "It's been incredibly effective," says Ries Robinson, MD, senior vice president and chief innovation officer. Between the system's nine hospitals and a health plan it offers, the organization serves a third of the state's residents. With a shortage of practitioners in New Mexico, and 70% of the care it provides covered by capitated contracts, Presbyterian needed to find a way to operate more efficiently. Asynchronous communication worked. Last year, a designated group of employed urgent care physicians handled 50,000 asynchronous visits for low-acuity care, and spent an average of two minutes on each encounter—far less than the 15–18 minutes it takes to conduct a typical video call. This form of care does not occur in real time. Depending on the platform used, a patient completes and submits an online form via secure email, text, or an app, detailing his or her complaint and relevant history. A physician receives the information, processes it, and sends a response back to the patient with instructions and prescriptions, if necessary. Presbyterian physicians usually respond within 15 minutes; some health systems using asynchronous communication allow up to 24 hours. There is no direct audio or video exchange with the patient unless the physician thinks it is warranted and escalates the encounter. ASYNCHRONOUS COMMUNICATION OFFERS MULTIPLE ADVANTAGES Asynchronous communication offers some distinct advantages to health systems, say the experts. Synchronous care, which includes video, audio, and in-person visits, comes with an Achilles' heel: Regardless of venue, the physician spends about the same amount of one-to-one time with the patient, says digital medicine expert Ashish Atreja, MD, MPH, chief information and digital health officer at UC Davis Health in Sacramento, California. "The real growth you're going to see in value," he says, "is the ability to deliver one-to-many care." Asynchronous communication is a step in that direction. "One of the most important things asynchronous communication does is help scale response," says Ann Mond Johnson, MBA, MHA, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association. In addition, because patients can use it with a phone or the internet, it can address issues of access, she says. Robinson says the SmartExam™ platform Presbyterian is using, made by, includes features that appeal to its physicians. It automatically enters chart-ready SOAP (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan) notes into the electronic medical record (EMR), creates billing files, and manages patient follow-up communications. "It's extremely elegant," says Robinson. SmartExam's design, which asks patients questions in an interview-style exchange, and advanced logic has earned the trust of the physicians who use it, he says. "I remember the first time [physicians] said, 'I trust it'; I thought that was kind of a funny term to use," Robinson recalls. When he asked the doctors what they meant, they explained that the tool is thorough and consistent in a way humans cannot replicate. "That's what the providers really like." Even the best medical assistant, he says, may vary in how they ask questions of patients, forget to include certain details, or package assessments differently. HOW TO CALCULATE COST SAVINGS While Robinson says the health system has detailed financial models that justify the cost of the platform, he declines to disclose the figures, but notes, "It hasn't been an astronomical investment by any stretch of the imagination." Expenses include a one-time cost for EMR integration, ongoing charges for using the platform on a per-patient per-use basis, and marketing and promotion. He also provides formulas to calculate estimated cost savings. They include: Better utilization of providers' time and related staffing expenses, by reducing each of 50,000 encounters from 15–18 minutes for a video encounter to two minutes for an asynchronous visit. More appropriate ER usage. Out of 50,000 patients, 8% were redirected away from the ER. This figure is based on patient survey responses indicating they would have visited the ER had the platform not been available. With an average ER visit costing more than $500, says Robinson, "there's a significant savings." Reduced workload at urgent care facilities. "Just assume 20,000 [of these patients] would have gone to an urgent care that we own," he says. The time and expense of urgent care staffing is used to calculate the savings. Patients also save money, says AVIA's Lignell. Nationally, he says the typical cost for an asynchronous visit is about $20, and many health systems offer these visits for free. This compares to a national average cost of $50 for a video visit and $125 for an in-person visit. THE POTENTIAL TO GROW BEYOND LOW-ACUITY CARE There is one additional element that has contributed to the success of asynchronous visits for Presbyterian: a digital front door. Patients visit the webpage, enter their condition and insurance information, and are automatically directed to the appropriate level of care, one of which includes the option for online visits (using asynchronous care). Because of the asynchronous initiative's success, the health system is expanding its use beyond low-acuity care. Future plans involve developing new uses for the platform, capturing symptoms and history to create greater efficiencies for video visits and even in-person care. "We have gotten religion around the idea of capturing as much information as you can in a sophisticated manner before the visit," says Robinson. "You maximize the quality of care and the efficiency of the visit. We're taking that idea and pushing it forward in multiple avenues of care here at Presbyterian." Value-based care will drive further adoption of these models, says Lignell. "The advantages from a total cost of care standpoint are huge," he says. "It's much less expensive to deliver care this way." While the bulk of growth has been in low-acuity primary care, he says asynchronous care is now being explored in specialty and higher-acuity care, as well as in e-consults between providers. "The asynchronous model is proving to be incredibly efficient for health systems," says Lignell. "That's one of the reasons why it has so much promise." Source: < Previous News Next News >

  • Apply Now: $250 M in Telehealth Grants

    Apply Now: $250 M in Telehealth Grants National Council for Behavioral Health April 30, 2021 Telehealth Grants - Apply Now Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened its second phase of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program with an additional $250 million available to eligible providers, including community mental health and substance use organizations. Organizations are strongly encouraged to apply for the grants that may be used to fund technology and equipment to bolster service delivery via telehealth. The application will close at 12:00pm ET on May 6, 2021. Read more and reach out here with any specific questions on the application process. COVID-19 Telehealth Program Application Resources: COVID-19 Telehealth Program (Invoices & Reimbursements): Questions: < Previous News Next News >

  • HHS Awards Nearly $55 Million to Increase Virtual Health Care Through Community Health Centers

    HHS Awards Nearly $55 Million to Increase Virtual Health Care Through Community Health Centers Dr. Maheu June 3, 2022 Virtual care has been a game-changer for patients, especially during the pandemic… This funding will help health centers leverage the latest technology and innovations to expand access to quality primary care for underserved communities. Today’s announcement reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing health equity and putting essential health care within reach for all Americans. n February, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded nearly $55 million to 29 HRSA-funded health centers. Funding was earmarked to increase virtual health care access and quality for underserved populations through telehealth, remote patient monitoring, digital health tools for patients, and health information technology platforms. This telehealth funding builds on over $7.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding invested in community health centers over the previous year to help reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health centers quickly expanded their use of virtual health care to maintain access to essential primary care services during the pandemic. The number of health centers offering virtual visits grew from 592 in 2019 to 1,362 in 2022, an increase of 130 percent. The February telehealth funding will reportedly be used to enable health centers to sustain an expanded level of virtual health care and identify and implement new digital strategies. HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson added: Today’s awards will help ensure that new ways to deliver primary care are reaching the communities that need it most… Our funding will help health centers continue to expand their virtual work while maintaining their vital in-person services in communities across the country. The press release also explained that the more than 1,400 HRSA-supported health centers in this country serve as a national source of primary care for at-risk communities. They are community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver affordable, accessible, and high-quality medical, dental, and behavioral health services to nearly 29 million patients each year. As of late January, health centers have delivered over 19.2 million vaccine doses, with 68 percent going to racial or ethnic minority patients. More than 90 percent of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (about $55,000 per year for a family of four in most states) and approximately 62 percent are racial/ethnic minorities. For more information: < Previous News Next News >

  • New HHS-OIG Reports on Telehealth Challenges and Oversight in State Medicaid Programs

    New HHS-OIG Reports on Telehealth Challenges and Oversight in State Medicaid Programs Center for Connected Health Policy September 2021 Last week the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) released two new telehealth reports, both related to the use of telehealth to deliver behavioral health services to Medicaid beneficiaries. HHS-OIG breaks up their study into two reports. Last week the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) released two new telehealth reports, both related to the use of telehealth to deliver behavioral health services to Medicaid beneficiaries. HHS-OIG breaks up their study into two reports: *States Reported Multiple Challenges with Using Telehealth to Provide Behavioral Health Services to Medicaid Enrollees (Challenges Report) which focuses on state care delivery issues, and *Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Evaluation and Oversight of Telehealth for Behavioral Health in Medicaid (Evaluation Report), which looks closer at state data collection and evaluation efforts. The reports are both based on surveys HHS-OIG conducted with Medicaid directors from 37 states as well as various stakeholders in early 2020. The surveys were particularly focused around telemental health delivery through managed care organizations, however most stakeholders focused on general telehealth issues in their responses. While the information was gathered pre-pandemic, HHS-OIG applies the findings to support understanding and recommendations to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) around post-pandemic telehealth policy. Key Challenges: Lack of Telehealth Training and Limited Broadband In terms of challenges related to care delivery via telehealth, the number one issue reported by 32 out of 37 surveyed states, was a lack of provider and enrollee training. In HHS-OIG’s interviews, stakeholders described not only provider issues related to use of telehealth technology, but also lack of education around telehealth coverage and reimbursement policies. Lack of internet access came in as the second highest challenge, reported by 31 out of 37 states. Broadband issues raised included not only enrollees having insufficient broadband speeds, but some clinics in rural areas having no broadband access at all. Other challenges provided by state Medicaid programs included: -Concerns around how providers protect patient privacy and personal information. -Lack of interoperability between provider electronic health record systems and how to increase provider sharing of patient information. -The high costs of telehealth infrastructure, such as initial equipment costs as well as maintenance and repair costs. -A lack of licensure reciprocity across states. -A lack of understanding around telehealth consent policies. Citing how CMS has given states broad flexibility in how they structure their telehealth policies, the recommendations from the report to CMS focus on increasing creation and dissemination of additional informational and educational resources, such as best practices amongst states, funding options related to broadband and interoperability, and creating a state plan amendment template that could additionally assist states in covering some ancillary infrastructure costs. Evaluation: Telehealth Data and Oversight Within the Evaluation Report which focused more on data collection and analysis, HHS-OIG found that only 3 out of 37 states are unable to track which services are provided via telehealth, however only 2 out of 37 states have evaluated that data specific to impacts on access to behavioral health services and only one state has evaluated telehealth impacts on cost. The report notes that though other states didn’t directly evaluate telehealth data however, they did provide information on observational telehealth impacts based on their experiences with telehealth. For instance, 17 out of 37 states reported that telehealth increases access to providers and a few states also noted potential cost savings, while 6 out of 37 said the impact of telehealth on cost is largely uncertain. The final focus of the Evaluation report was related to telehealth quality assessments and oversight by Medicaid agencies. While 10 out of 37 states noted concerns around quality, one state mentioned quality as more of a clinical practice issue, and two states believed provider training could address such concerns. In regard to oversight, only 11 states were said to conduct monitoring specific to telehealth, while other states noted they oversee all services the same. HHS-OIG made much stronger and more specific recommendations when it comes to state oversight and evaluation, suggesting the need for additional telehealth specific measures by CMS, states, and managed care organizations. Looking Ahead The HHS-OIG reports highlight many of the broad issues and questions related to telehealth that have become forefront in policymakers’ minds over the past year and half, such as challenges around addressing the digital divide and how to best evaluate telehealth impacts. The recommendations point toward a few different potential post-pandemic pathways for CMS mainly around increasing education and oversight. As we’ve seen confusion grow around what state Medicaid agencies believe CMS allows them to do as permanent telehealth policy, such as around federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), perhaps the most essential recommendation made by HHS-OIG comes back to increasing coordination amongst state Medicaid agencies with CMS. The reports’ limited scope to behavioral health services through managed care organizations is also notable in terms of policy application even though state and stakeholder responses may have been more general. For instance, many states and policymakers seem to be focused around Medicaid fee-for-service policies more so than managed care, as well as reimbursement challenges, such as payment parity and similar fee schedule considerations. In addition, the HHS-OIG study did not break down any differences or feedback by telehealth modality, while many states and stakeholders have been focused on the future of audio-only availability – especially as a way to address the challenge of limited broadband access. In terms of evaluating data, while many states may have not had a data evaluation plan in place at the time of HHS-OIG survey, many now do as a result of recently enacted legislation predicated on the surge of use and attention to telehealth during the pandemic. Therefore, it may be interesting for HHS-OIG to consider conducting a similar more broad survey in a year or two after states have had more time to collect and wrap their heads around the data. Challenges Report: Evaluation Report: < Previous News Next News >

  • A New Model For Healthcare: Adding Telehealth To Unclog Patient Flow ‘Hot Spots’

    A New Model For Healthcare: Adding Telehealth To Unclog Patient Flow ‘Hot Spots’ Dr. Corey Scurlock MD, MBA June 8, 2022 It may not match the scale of the exodus of nurses from the healthcare workforce, but a growing shortage of physicians is no less of a threat to patient care. A recent survey found that one in five doctors plan on leaving the profession in the next two years, hastening a projected shortfall of as many as 124,000 doctors by 2034. This has reached such a concerning level that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy have launched a strategic advisory to mitigate clinical burnout. More Information: Covid-19 and longstanding concerns about changes in the business of healthcare have left many physicians burned out. Older doctors are seeking early retirement, and younger doctors seek a more balanced work/life ratio. Many aren’t interested in some of the all-consuming specialties such as critical care, neurology, oncology and psychiatry. As with everything else in our world right now, supply is not meeting demand. Action is required, but it can’t just rely on yesterday’s solutions. Opening up more slots in medical schools won’t fill the immediate need for experienced, board-certified physicians. Buying up physician practices is largely played out, as most doctors are already employed. I would argue that we can’t wait for a new MD pipeline to open up. Instead, we need to fix the broken practice of medicine. Doctors are burned out because they are locked into 15-minute appointment cycles wrapped around the exigencies of electronic health records systems that demand complete documentation of each step, leaving little time for the “How are you, Ms. Jones?” moments. Patients are unhappy with eight-month waits for new patient appointments to confirm diagnoses of serious diseases. Within the hospital, a lack of staff and available expertise meets up with broken processes to choke off patient flow from the emergency department to laboratories to medical floors. Staff personnel stand around waiting for paperwork. Patients wait on gurneys for everything. By the time things are straightened out, the original order might no longer be appropriate for a patient. Discharge alone has become a major headache. One antidote to this is to create a hybrid model of care as I have done with my company and as my business helps other companies do. It relies on points in the care process being actively managed remotely by specialist physicians who also have a background in telehealth. These veterans should understand where timely intervention can unblock patient flow at “hot spots” in a patient’s journey caused by delays in care, inappropriate care transitions or potential patient harm. Telehealth-enabled monitoring can reduce transfers by accurately assessing patient acuity and overseeing the work of less-experienced hospital staff. Through these interactions, the goal is to see reduced patient readmissions and ED visits, shorter hospital stays and better utilization of resources. Of course, all of this begs the question: If the hospital can’t find enough specialists, how can virtual care physicians fill these roles? The answer is pretty simple, in my opinion. You bring back the joy of being a doctor. These telehealth doctors work from home, linked to pods of multi-specialists who work with the same hospitals, getting to know the staff. They can work when they like and as much as they like. They access the medical record but are called upon to solve problems, full stop. You can also make sure their work is always varied. Doctors want to heal, not master the intricacies of Epic’s latest software. With the tailwind of favorable policy and reimbursement the telehealth industry is experiencing right now, it might be an opportune time to consider this type of strategy. But as one explores telehealth as a business venture, it's important to recognize that all such business is still highly regulated, as it is in the field of care delivery. The core components of an end-to-end telehealth solution include people, process and technology. Here are some thoughts on each. • Technology: Audio-video providers have matured significantly, and increasing interoperability has enabled new entrants. Health systems have sought to standardize enterprise platforms versus best-of-breed applications. Clinical analytics tools can be overlaid on the EMR leading to simpler clinical insight gathering. While not mandatory, such systems target quality or performance metrics to support ROI. • Process: Efforts to virtualize care can be disruptive to care delivery. Consider what technology platforms to purchase, KPIs to measure and clinical workflow to create. • People: Delivering telehealth-enabled care will place the highest regulatory burden on an organization. Malpractice, state licensing and credentialing, and HIPAA, to name a few, are considerations that need to be tackled first. Secondly, your attention to provider experience is paramount to ensure a healthy and sustainable workforce to attract talent. As Covid-19 wanes, we are facing unprecedented change in the provisioning of care. New care models will emerge. Telehealth is not the only solution, but it is clear that it will be a primary one. A recent survey (registration required) of health system CEOs by the University of Colorado’s Health Administration Research Consortium put virtual care as the No. 1 strategy for future growth. For those looking for solutions to today’s healthcare challenges, here are three points to remember: • Telehealth is here to stay: It could be the great equalizer for care access and equity. • Patient flow is key: By focusing on the patient journey across the continuum, hot spots can be identified and targeted. • Clinical and operational alignment are needed: People, processes and technology can combine as a force multiplier to return greater value, but only if everyone has agreed on a care road map. As telehealth goes, we are not battling efficacy anymore; we are battling inaction and the cost such inaction creates. I believe unlocking the potential of all our nation's providers can deliver better care everywhere. It's time to imagine what the design of the next-generation, digitally-enabled clinical workforce looks like, and it's all about access and equity in care delivery. < Previous News Next News >

  • Biden’s American Jobs Plan Increases Investments in Broadband Infrastructure

    Biden’s American Jobs Plan Increases Investments in Broadband Infrastructure Center for Connected Health Policy April 13, 2021 President Biden’s recently released American Jobs Plan includes $100 billion to increase access to affordable, reliable, and high-speed broadband throughout the country. President Biden’s recently released American Jobs Plan includes $100 billion to increase access to affordable, reliable, and high-speed broadband throughout the country. Comparing digital infrastructure today to affordable access to electricity in the 1930s, the Fact Sheet on the Plan released by the White House states how the pandemic has highlighted existing disparities related to the digital divide and the lack of broadband access to more than 30 million Americans. The $100 billion investment will prioritize broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas to reach 100% high-speed broadband coverage. It also sets aside funds for tribal lands and promotes broadband providers less focused on profits, such as those affiliated with municipalities, and seeks to improve price transparency and competition among internet service providers. The plan will include internet subsidies to low-income consumers, but states that in the long-term, the President is committed to working with Congress to reduce internet prices negating the need for such short-term solutions. The full Fact Sheet on The American Jobs Plan can be accessed on the White House website, < Previous News Next News >

  • Libraries Add Telehealth to the Rural Communities They Serve

    Libraries Add Telehealth to the Rural Communities They Serve Mari Herreras October 20, 2022 In the early days of the Covid pandemic, Dianne Connery realized something needed to be done for people in her rural Texas community to help connect folks to their medical appointments. Connery, director of the Pottsboro Area Library in Pottsboro, Texas, said it started when one woman with pulmonary disease came to the library for help, desperate to meet with her doctor but too high risk to come to his office—a two-hour drive south to Dallas. “Libraries are such perfect places for this because often we have the fastest internet in town, and we are used to helping people with technology,” Connery said. Connery and her fellow librarians sprang into action—creating a private space in Connery’s office with her laptop that had a camera. That gesture allowed the woman to meet with her doctor and go over recent MRI results. “I had never lived in a rural town until 2010 and didn’t realize how hard it is to access digital technology. You need a solid infrastructure for robust internet. Rural communities like ours don’t have that,” she said. From that first telehealth appointment in Connery’s office grew the library’s telehealth program that’s received national recognition. However, it never would have happened without Connery, with support from the town council, having fiber installed to support a teen eSports program long before the start of the pandemic. More community members used Connery’s office those early telehealth appointments, but through a National Library of Medicine grant and a community appeal, she was able to create a private appointment space from an old junk room and purchase the needed hardware and equipment. The next step was a unique partnership she developed with the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center to pair patients with the medical providers they needed. People can be seen two days a week for those using Medicare and Medicaid. Another day of the week is reserved for behavioral health appointments and another day is reserved for folks seeing their regular health providers. Connery’s work on the telehealth program doesn’t end there. The American Heart Association recently provided her library with blood pressure kits members of the community can check out. They also received a grant to hire a community health care worker to do outreach and education at the library and community spaces like the American Legion and the VFW. Now she’s focused on developing a digital literacy curriculum with the help of a three-year grant that helped her hire a digital navigator. Connery said she’s excited to see other rural libraries in Texas start telehealth programs but hopes more funding loops back to libraries desperate for increases in their own budgets. Connery is part of a national consortium of libraries who meet monthly to discuss telehealth programming—a growing interest in other rural communities beyond her Texas borders. Last month, a new telehealth program recently launched at two rural Pima County Library branches in Ajo and Arivaca—the first of its kind in Arizona—allowing folks with transportation or internet issues access to their doctors without having to drive several hours across the desert to nearby Tucson. “A huge sense of relief,” is how one Ajo resident recently described her experience that helped her connect with her primary care doctor in Tucson about worrisome symptoms she experienced after recovering from Covid. At the Salazar-Ajo Library she was able to collect the vitals her doctor needed using equipment provided by the library. And in the privacy of the library’s meeting room, she met with her doctor via a laptop and the internet provided by the library to go over her symptoms and vitals. “Being able to take my vitals and provide those to my doctor seems really important,” the Ajo resident said. “… while I was on my call with her, she had me do my vitals. We started with the blood pressure cuff, and how to apply it. Then my oxygen with the pulse rate oximeter.” The end of the appointment her doctor determined that the symptoms were not uncommon for someone who has had Covid, allowing the Ajo resident some relief and a better understanding of her recovery. Daniela Buchberger, Pima County Library’s Ajo branch managing librarian, said the new program, Health Connect, provides a private room for telehealth medical appointments. Inside is a laptop with a camera and equipment needed for a patient to take their own vitals: a digital scale, a thermometer, a blood pressure cuff, and a pulse rate oximeter. A patient will need to have the link provided by their doctor, usually via email. Library staff, due to privacy restrictions, aren’t going to be able to help someone log-on or use the equipment although the patient can bring someone with them to their appointment in the study room. Each library has written instructions on laminated cards as well as easy-to-follow visuals to help guide their experience. According to the Pima County Library, Health Connect is made possible by the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State, with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is a joint effort between the Library, Pima County Health Department, University of Arizona’s College of Nursing, the Arizona Telemedicine Program, and United Community Health Care. "Access to telehealth is essential for people to get the care they need when traveling to an in-person visit isn't possible,” said Ken Zambos, program manager for Workforce and Economic Development in Pima County. “By providing this service, the library is providing access to equipment that transforms healthcare delivery and positively affects healthcare outcomes." Buchberger said a library card isn’t needed to use the room. However, reservations are needed and available in hour and half increments. Each person using a room is expected to clean all equipment after use with alcohol wipes provided. A fan in the room will be used to provide white noise to help with privacy as much as possible. “We may not have as much traffic as other libraries, but we are an important part of the community. The library is free, so is the internet,” Buchberger said. “Not everyone here has a car or a computer, but they have us.” About the Author Mari Herreras is the newest member of the Arizona Telemedicine Program and Southwest Telehealth Resource Center teams, serving as Communications Manager. She has worked in marketing and communications in publishing and nonprofits, as well as an award-winning journalism career for community and alternative newsweeklies in Tucson, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Wenatchee, Washington. See original article: < Previous News Next News >

  • Updated Version of CONNECT for Health Act Introduced in Congress

    Updated Version of CONNECT for Health Act Introduced in Congress Center for Connected Health Policy May 4, 2021 Last week an updated version of the CONNECT for Health Act was introduced in Congress. Last week an updated version of the CONNECT for Health Act was introduced in Congress. The bill, which was first introduced in 2016 but has been repurposed in this newest version to remove restrictions on telehealth for mental health, stroke care and home dialysis in certain circumstances. It also addresses several of the restrictions in Medicare, including geographic limitations, expanding originating sites to include the home, restrictions on federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHCs) reimbursement and gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the ability to waive other telehealth restrictions permanently. For more information, see the press release, or read the bill’s summary published by Senator Schatz office. Stay tuned for a deeper dive and further analysis from CCHP next week. Press Release: Summary: < Previous News Next News >

  • Maximizing Telemedicine Benefits

    Maximizing Telemedicine Benefits Elizabeth A. Krupinski, Southwest Telehealth Resource Center August 2021 First and foremost, the key to a successful telemedicine program is planning and figuring out exactly what role you expect telemedicine to play and how it fits in the mission and goals of your practice or institution. The United States and the world have seen a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine since the inception of the COVID-19 public health emergency due in most part to stay at home restrictions for both providers and patients. Prior to this, telemedicine was used in a wide variety of clinical and related patient care applications for at least 30 years, and had been seeing steady but not exponential growth. In many cases programs were initiated quite rapidly using readily available and often low-cost equipment and tools, unless there was already an existing program and platform in place. Further, the use of telemedicine was facilitated at the state and federal levels but widespread waivers and measures being put into place to reduce barriers that were previously in place such as changes in reimbursements, requirements regarding patient and provider locations, cross-state licensure and privacy/security requirements. Those of us in the field for a long time are hopeful that many of these measures will stay in place, but there are clearly some that will or already have expired. We are additionally hopeful that even though in-person practices are clearly coming back full-tilt, that everyone has seen and/or experienced the benefits of telemedicine and will continue to use it to some degree as feasible and appropriate with their patients. As this occurs, however, providers will be faced with new challenges as they take their initial telemedicine set-ups and transition to this new hybrid world of services. As noted, some things will still be allowed (e.g., certain billing codes) but others will likely return to pre-COVID status (e.g., not being able to use non-HIPAA-compliant devices and software platforms). In addition to finding the best software for future telemedicine applications, there are other things to consider when trying to maximize telemedicine benefits. From my perspective, although the technology is critical, telemedicine success has very little to do with the technology and everything to do with the people and the environment within which they practice. Thus, in order to maximize telemedicine these are the elements one should consider and focus on in addition to carefully selecting the most appropriate technology for your practice and providers. First and foremost, the key to a successful telemedicine program is planning and figuring out exactly what role you expect telemedicine to play and how it fits in the mission and goals of your practice or institution. The use cases need to be clearly defined and must match an identified need. Then the who, what, where, why and when must be carefully delineated. Who needs to be involved (e.g., providers, billing, scheduling, IT, legal, administration), what clinical tasks can be accomplished via telemedicine, where will the technology and/or providers be located (e.g., clinic, home) and where will the patients be (e.g., primary care provider office, home, work, school), why will telemedicine be offered as an option (e.g., lack of sub-specialty providers, patients need to travel long distances, no show rates are too high) and when will telemedicine be offered (e.g., certain days/times, any opening in the schedule)? All of this can be accomplished by plotting out in a workflow diagram what the current practice is and how it needs to be adjusted in order to integrate telemedicine into that workflow. Again, the expectation is that although some practices might remain essentially virtual, the majority are going to evolve into a hybrid practice – but such a hybrid will not happen overnight or automatically. Workflow integration is going to be just as critical as integrating telemedicine technologies into a practice – it really is all about the people, setting expectations and establishing standard operating procedures and protocols for everyone that is going to be involved. Another thing that can be done to maximize a telemedicine practice is to properly train everyone on standard operating procedures and protocols, especially the providers who will be interacting with the patients. To date there are very few training programs that incorporate formally telemedicine as part of the curriculum. A number of programs are increasingly exposing trainees to telemedicine if offered at their institution, but typically as an elective or chance encounter in the clinic. There are however a number of organizations that are working on developing and promoting telemedicine competencies and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently developed a set of Core Competencies. Although specific to medical college trainees, they are comprehensive enough to cover nearly every other specialty/profession in many respects. Very briefly, the AAMC Telehealth Competencies consist of three domains, each with a set of explicit skills that increase in complexity and responsibility across three stages of practice: entering residency, entering practice and experienced faculty physician. The skills from each prior stage of training should carry over to the next phase as the provider becomes more expert and acquires additional skill sets. The six domains are: patient safety and appropriate use of telehealth; access and equity in telehealth; communication via telehealth; data collection and assessment via telehealth; technology for telehealth; and ethical practices and legal requirements for telehealth. Patient safety and appropriate use of telehealth includes 4 skill sets ranging from being able to explain to patients are caregivers the benefits and limitations of telemedicine to knowing when a patient is at risk and how/when to escalate care (e.g., convert to in-person) during an encounter. Access and equity in telehealth has 3 skill sets including knowing your biases and implications when considering healthcare, how telehealth can mitigate or amplify access to care gaps, and taking into account all potential cultural, social, physical and other factors when considering telemedicine. Communication via telehealth has 3 skills covering establishing rapport with patients, creating the right environment (e.g., lighting, sound) and knowing how to incorporate a patient’s social support into an encounter. Data collection and assessment via telehealth covers how to obtain a patient history, how to conduct an appropriate remote exam, and how to deal with patient-generated data. Technology for telehealth does not expect everyone to be an engineer or IT expert, but they should be able to explain equipment requirements for a visit, explain limitations and minimum requirements, and explain risks of technology failure and how to respond to them. Similarly, ethical practices and legal requirements for telehealth does not expect everyone to be a lawyer but should be able to describe local legal and privacy regulations, define components of informed consent, understand ethical challenges and professional requirements, and assess potential conflicts of interest (e.g., interest in commercial products/services). Many of these skills can be acquired by those already in practice by attending the wide variety of courses and webinars available for telemedicine skill building. It is also highly recommended that before engaging with patients for the first time via telemedicine to engage in some simulated practice sessions – from start to finish practicing each skill and developing your “style” for interacting with patients via this virtual medium. Finally, in order to maximize benefits you need to assess your program. This does not require a degree in statistics or setting up a complex experimental study. It really requires just two things – a set of metrics and a process. There are lots of metrics available and most have been studied in a wide variety of clinical applications so a good lit review will always help get you started. It is important to keep in mind that the things you measure need to reflect your goals/mission for using telemedicine and the bottom line of making a profit is not always the most appropriate metric to use. There are lots of relevant metrics and as a good starting place the article by Shore et al. “A lexicon of assessment and outcome measures for telemental health” is a great place to get some ideas. Although developed for the telemental health community the metrics provided apply quite well to nearly any specialty or practice. The metrics include such things as patient/provider satisfaction, no shows, symptom outcomes, completion of treatment, wait times, number of services, cultural access, cost avoidance and patient safety. Once you decide on metrics that are appropriate for your practice (recommend starting with 2-3 then add more as your practice grows) there is a very easy, straight-forward process for getting to outcomes. First, consider a given measure an indicator – these are concrete activities, products etc. that can be measured readily (e.g., from the patient record). For example, you could measure A1C levels in patients as a function of being enrolled in a telenutrition program. The next step is to set performance targets – these are concrete goals that are time limited and based on the indicator metrics. For example, you would like to see a 25% reduction in A1C levels in at least 50% of patients enrolled in the telenutrition course at 6 months post-baseline. Finally, you will have quantifiable outcomes (without fancy statistics) at the end of your set time period – if you meet your 25% reduction goal in 50% of patients great. If not, then maybe reassess the program or whether your goals were realistic. In any case, you now have concrete outcomes of your program demonstrating its benefits that you can provide to funders, administration, your care team and even patients and the community. In order to maximize telemedicine benefits you need to get the word out about its availability and its effectiveness! < Previous News Next News >

  • New MACPAC Report to Congress: Recommendations to improve mental health access include telehealth

    New MACPAC Report to Congress: Recommendations to improve mental health access include telehealth Center for Connected Health Policy June 2021 Recommended ways to improve access to mental health services for adults, children, and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) released its June 2021 Report to Congress last week that recommends ways to improve access to mental health services for adults, children, and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). While the report and recommendations did not evaluate telehealth directly, they did occasionally reference telehealth’s ability to increase access to mental health services and recommend that the promotion of telehealth be included in various programmatic guidance. For instance, the report highlights telehealth programs that connect youth to telehealth counseling services and recommends the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issue joint guidance addressing how Medicaid and CHIP can be used to fund a behavioral health crisis continuum that includes how telehealth can be used to ensure access to crisis care. They also recommend that opportunities to cover telehealth and other technology-enabled services be described in CMS and SAMHSA guidance specific to children and adolescents with significant mental health conditions. The report additionally looks at how to promote care integration through electronic health records (EHRs) and value-based payment (VBP) programs, which include measures related to expanded use of telehealth. It also discusses the non-emergency transportation (NEMT) benefit in Medicaid, mentioning that many changes in how the program is administered are occurring which require additional data to assess its value, such as how expanded availability of telehealth services may lessen its need in certain circumstances. For more information, please access the full MACPAC report - < Previous News Next News >

  • Telehealth's importance grows amid coronavirus pandemic

    Telehealth's importance grows amid coronavirus pandemic Rick Ruggles March 12, 2022 The coronavirus compelled doctors to see patients in new ways, and one of those is through a computer monitor, miles away from the patient. The pandemic placed greater emphasis on telehealth, which has been around for years but was put to use urgently when the coronavirus spread in early 2020. Officials with Medicare, the government-sponsored insurance for senior citizens, also increased the number of the occasions in which telehealth could be covered during the pandemic. Whether vast telehealth use and broad insurance coverage for it will continue isn’t certain, those who know the benefits of telehealth say it has proved itself and is here to stay. “It’s become part of life,” said Sharon V. Nir, administrative director of strategic operations with Albuquerque-based Lovelace Medical Group. “I do think it’s the new world.” Lovelace created an extensive program in March 2020, with the arrival of the coronavirus, to make remote visits available to patients and doctors through laptop computers, iPads, cellphones and desktops with cameras and microphones. Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, University of New Mexico Health, La Familia Medical Center and most other medical systems also increased their use of telehealth. Santa Fe Preparatory School teacher Brad Fairbanks went head over handlebars on his bicycle last month, breaking a collarbone and three ribs. He spent time in an emergency room, but his follow-up visits with his family physician, Dr. Carl Friedrichs of Presbyterian Medical Group, were done remotely. Fairbanks, 61, said the follow-up appointments and pain medication assessments were as effective by videoconference as they would have been in person. “This was the first time I’d done telehealth,” said Fairbanks, the performing arts chairman at his school. “Yes, it worked great.” He said the accident happened at a bad time, with his students preparing to put on the show 9 to 5 The Musical. He missed four days of work and two rehearsals and had to participate in two other rehearsals by Zoom technology. Friedrichs said there is plenty that can be accomplished in a telehealth appointment. “The patient has the choice,” he said. “It’s an extra tool for patients.” In a big state like New Mexico with vast rural expanses, it makes sense to lean on telehealth, he said. “This is a state that has limited medical resources.” Videoconferencing can’t be used for everything, of course. Annual physicals and diagnoses requiring the doctor to lay hands on the patient must be done in person. Blood draws for lab work require a visit, although the result of that lab work can be covered in a virtual appointment. And some patients aren’t at ease with the technology. But telehealth gives patients in rural areas and those who struggle to find transportation the chance to get some of their services done by videoconference. And when the highly contagious coronavirus roared through the world, patients who were reluctant to visit the doctor’s office had an alternative. Christine and Ed Shestak of Albuquerque have had about four videoconference appointments apiece through Lovelace since the start of the pandemic. “For routine things, it just kind of minimizes the risk of picking up anything anybody else might have” in the doctor’s office, said Christine Shestak, 69. She recalled when she took her children to the pediatrician many years ago, kids would cough, noses would run and children would share toys in the waiting room. Telehealth is a solution, she said, and if she has the flu, she doesn’t have to carry it into the clinic and possibly infect others. Ed Shestak, who will soon be 70, said he has hearing aids and sometimes struggles to absorb everything if there is background noise in the doctor’s office. At home, he puts on headphones for his virtual visits. “I can hear and understand better,” he said. Naturally, insurance coverage of telehealth is complicated. Before the pandemic, Medicare coverage for telehealth generally favored rural patients and also included some specific conditions such as end-stage renal disease and strokes. But when the coronavirus forced patients to work from home and limit travel, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanded coverage on an emergency basis to patients in cities, to a wider variety of medical practitioners and for a broader set of reasons. Telehealth used by primary care doctors boomed. Specialists in psychology, the digestive tract, lungs and heart also saw increased use of telehealth. The federal government reported in December that Medicare-covered telehealth visits leaped from 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million in 2020. Presbyterian spokeswoman Amanda Schoenberg said scheduled telehealth visits with Presbyterian Medical Group went up by 100 times from 2019 through 2021. Medicare will continue to cover many of those services at least through 2023 while officials evaluate the system. Tennessee-based Baker Donelson law firm says on its website new Medicare provisions also permanently removed geographic restrictions on telehealth for diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of mental health disorders. Stetson Berg, chairman of the New Mexico Telehealth Alliance, said Congress will have to pass laws to cement much of the coverage that was added on an emergency basis during the pandemic. Berg said state law in New Mexico has provided some of the most progressive private insurance coverage of telehealth and has served as a “shining star” in the field for close to 10 years. New Mexico was ahead of the game in part because it is so rural, he said. Other states are catching up. In the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers reported last month that analysis of 38 studies showed videoconferencing “generally results in similar clinical effectiveness, health care use, patient satisfaction, and quality of life as usual care for areas studied.” Those studies were limited to “patients seeking care for a limited set of purposes,” the report added. Christus spokesman Arturo Delgado wrote in a text message that virtual visits “are appropriate for most evaluations. Conditions that can be evaluated include anything from a cough or a cold to more complicated conditions like diabetes or heart disease.” Jasmin Milz Holmstrup, a spokeswoman for La Familia Medical Center in Santa Fe, said the use of telehealth increased considerably at her institution from 2020 to 2021. “It’s an effective way to see patients who have non-urgent needs,” she said. University of New Mexico Health said the institution “utilized all available options to continue to provide patient care, including telehealth. This was a successful way to ensure patients continued to receive care and access to a provider.” Prep teacher Fairbanks said his students prepared for the play while he was “in my recliner, all banged up.” The shows took place March 3 to March 6 and the medical appointments by telehealth and attendance of rehearsals by Zoom didn’t pose a problem. His students came through. “It worked out,” he said. “And the kids stepped up.” < Previous News Next News >

  • Report: Telehealth Programs Increase Workload for Nurses and Support Staff

    Report: Telehealth Programs Increase Workload for Nurses and Support Staff Katie Adams December 20, 2022 Many providers think their telehealth program increases the workload for nurses and support staff, according to a recent report. In 2023, hospitals and physician practices will have to focus on making their telehealth workflows more efficient, which may involve partnering with third-party administrators. Telehealth isn’t as widely utilized as it was at the dawn of the pandemic, but the care modality is definitely here to stay. However, many providers believe their telehealth program increases the workload for nurses and support staff, according to a recent report from research firm Sage Growth Partners. Providers also said they don’t think physicians enjoy using telehealth visits to treat patients. In 2023, hospitals and physician practices will have to focus on making their telehealth workflows more efficient, which may involve partnering with third-party administrators, the report said. In September, Sage Growth Partners surveyed 95 health system executives and 75 leaders of physician practices. Practices with fewer than five physicians were excluded from the survey. Most respondents said that their organizations will focus on optimizing and sustaining their current telehealth programs in 2023 rather than expanding them. In fact, only about 10% of participants — 11% of hospitals and 8% of practices — said they are looking to grow their telehealth offerings next year. Health system executives were more likely than practice leaders to say that telehealth visits should make up a higher percentage of their ideal in-person-to-telehealth visit mix. Health system leaders said the mix should be 30% telehealth and 70% office. Among practice leaders, the ideal mix looks more like 20% and 80%. Their difference of opinion also extended to another question on how they think telehealth utilization will grow by visit type over the next two years. Health system leaders said that utilization will fall slightly for most visit types — even behavioral health. They said that 36% of behavioral health visits were delivered via telehealth in September, but they expect this to fall to 33% in September 2024. Urgent care and telepathology were the two visit types for which health systems leaders predicted telehealth growth — they expect telehealth utilization to increase from 3% to 7% for urgent care and from 2% to 4% for telepathology. Practice leaders expected telehealth utilization to increase slightly or remain the same for most visit types. Specialty care was the only exception — for this visit type, practice leaders predicted utilization to fall from 23% to 20% over the next two years. Both groups agreed that telehealth actually increases burden on staff though practice leaders seem to feel it more acutely. More than half of practice leaders said telehealth has increased support staff’s workload, and 28% said it generates more work for nurses. Among health system executives, 35% said telehealth increased support staff’s workload, and 30% said it creates more work for nurses. Additionally, less than half of total respondents (46% of hospitals and 47% of practices) agreed that telehealth increases physician satisfaction and physicians like using telehealth visits to treat patients. A key reason for this is that many providers are operating their telehealth programs using inefficient workflows, according to the report. Nearly 60% of survey respondents said they have not yet created new workflows for telehealth visits. Instead, hospitals and physician practices are still relying on workflows that mirror in-person visits. In 2023, providers will need to improve these workflows, and many will consider bringing on the help of third-party telehealth administrators, such as Amwell or Caregility, the report said. Hospitals are more than twice as likely to use third-party partners to administer telehealth services — with 20% of hospitals doing this compared to 9% of practices. Hospitals were also more likely to say they would change their telehealth administering party over the next two years — with 44% of hospitals saying this compared to 25% of practices. Photo: Anastasia Usenko, Getty Images See original article: < Previous News Next News >

  • States Expand Medicaid Reimbursement of School-Based Telehealth Services

    States Expand Medicaid Reimbursement of School-Based Telehealth Services Center for Connected Health Policy June 2021 49 states currently have policies allowing Medicaid reimbursement of telehealth in schools – 24 had existing policies, 31 recently expanded policies during the pandemic, and at least four states have indicated they may make the changes permanent. The National Academy for State Health Policy released a report last month on how states are increasing Medicaid coverage of school-based telehealth during COVID-19, as well as assessing which services can be effectively delivered via telehealth and how to best support equitable access to services via telehealth for students. The authors found that 49 states currently have policies allowing Medicaid reimbursement of telehealth in schools – 24 had existing policies, 31 recently expanded policies during the pandemic, and at least four states have indicated they may make the changes permanent. As far as services, the brief showed that most states cover audiology and speech-language therapy via telehealth, although behavioral health services had the greatest expansion and providing telemental health they found to be a recognized best practice. Half of all states cover individualized education program (IEP) plan services or Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) services as well. The report also suggests that moving forward states should explore federal funding opportunities to expand technology and broadband access for students facing disparities in access to care. < Previous News Next News >

  • AMA survey shows widespread enthusiasm for telehealth

    AMA survey shows widespread enthusiasm for telehealth American Medical Association March 23, 2022 CHICAGO — An American Medical Association (AMA) survey released today shows physicians have enthusiastically embraced telehealth and expect to use it even more in the future. Nearly 85% of physician respondents indicated they are currently using telehealth to care for patients, and nearly 70% report their organization is motivated to continue using telehealth in their practice. Many physicians foresee providing telehealth services for chronic disease management and ongoing medical management, care coordination, mental/behavioral health, and specialty care. The survey comes as Congress recently extended the availability of telehealth for Medicare patients beyond the current COVID-19 public health emergency. Additional action by Congress will be needed to permanently provide access to Medicare telehealth services. As physicians and practices plan to expand telehealth services, they say widespread adoption hinges on preventing a return to the previous lack of insurance coverage and little to no payer reimbursement. Payers, both public and private, should continue to evaluate and improve policies, coverage, and payment rates for services provided via telehealth. “Physicians view telehealth as providing quality care to their patients, and policymakers and payers have come to the same conclusion. Patients will benefit immensely from this new era of improved access to care,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “This survey shows adoption of the technology is widespread as is the demand for continued access. It is critical that Congress takes action and makes permanent telehealth access for Medicare patients.” Physicians strongly support that telehealth via audio-only/telephone remains covered in the future to ensure equitable access. That coverage has been permitted during the public health emergency and extended for several months afterward. According to the survey, 95% of physicians report patients are primarily located at their home at the time of the virtual visit. Allowing patients to be in their home is a key component of making telehealth more accessible. Before the pandemic, Medicare patients needed to be physically located in a rural area to access telehealth services, shutting out urban and suburban patients from receiving the same benefits of virtual care. Before the pandemic, rural patients needed to travel to an “originating site,” essentially another health care facility, outside of their home to access telehealth services. The temporary extension in the omnibus will allow patients with Medicare to receive telehealth services anywhere they are located, including in their home. The AMA will continue to urge Congress to make permanent this and other policies that have offered coverage and convenience to patients. Fewer than half of respondents report being able to access all of their telehealth platforms via their electronic health records, and more than 75% report that their support technology does not automatically collect and deliver patient-reported data. Improving interoperability between platforms and support technology would improve and streamline telehealth services. Physicians perceive technology, digital literacy, and broadband internet access to be the top three patient barriers to using telehealth. In addition, only 8% of physician respondents said they were using remote patient monitoring at this time. The AMA will advocate for patient populations and communities with limited access to telehealth service, including but not limited to, supporting increased funding and planning for telehealth infrastructure such as broadband and internet-connected devices. Read the survey here. To learn more about the results, register for an AMA Telehealth Immersion Program webinar at 10 a.m. ET March 31. Media Contact: Jack Deutsch ph: (202) 789-7442 About the American Medical Association The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care. The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care. < Previous News Next News >

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