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Last Week in Connected Care:
Recent Developments and Clips

Week Ending June 5, 2020

The Alliance for Connected Care continues to maintain and update a COVID-19 website tracking guidance on telehealth and remote patient monitoring

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Federal Agency Telehealth Activity / Guidance

CMS: (6/2) – HHS provided an additional $250 million – as authorized by the CARES Act – for health care systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will support hospitals and other health care entities to train workforces, expand telemedicine and the use of virtual healthcare, procure supplies and equipment, and coordinate effectively across regional, state and jurisdictional, and local health care facilities to respond to COVID-19. HHS has provided a total of $350 million to health care systems for pandemic response. COVID-19 Supplemental Funding Overview

Federal Trade Commission: (6/2) – FTC submitted a comment to CMS on its Interim Final Rule with Comment (IFC) supporting the IFC’s provisions that reduce or eliminate restrictive Medicare payment requirements for telehealth and other communication technology-based services during the PHE. FTC urged CMS to consider whether they should permanently eliminate geographic and originating site requirements. Letter:

Federal Communications Commission: (6/3) – FCC approved the ninth set of COVID-19 Telehealth Program applications, funding an additional 53 health care providers. To date, FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has funded 238 health care providers in 41 states and D.C. for a total of $84.96 million in funding. Previous funding announcements.

Department of Veterans Affairs: (6/3) – VA announced that Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation has committed to providing VA $4.5 million in grant funds over three years to help establish a national tele-oncology center to more effectively reach Veterans living in rural communities.

Centers for Disease Control: (6/3) – CDC released a report on the impact of COVID-19 on emergency department visits from January 1, 2019 to May 30, 2020. The National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP), which collects electronic health data in real time found that ED visits declined 42% during the early COVID-19 pandemic, from a mean of 2.1 million per week (March 31–April 27, 2019) to 1.2 million (March 29–April 25, 2020), with the steepest decreases in persons aged ≤14 years, females, and the Northeast. Additionally, the proportion of infectious disease–related visits was four times higher during the early pandemic period. CDC – to minimize COVID-19 transmission risk and address public concerns – recommended continued use of virtual visits and triage help lines and adherence to CDC infection control guidance. Report can be viewed here

Department of Veterans Affairs: (6/5) – VA issued an interim final rule with comment revising its regulations that govern VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to relax the requirement for in-person home visits. For the duration of the PHE. VA may complete visits to caregivers of veterans through means other than in-person visits, including videoconference or other available telehealth modalities. Comments are due by July 6.

    Congressional Activity and Legislation 

    Letter: (5/29) – Twenty-one democratic Senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) for over $200 million in funding for children’s behavioral health care in upcoming COVID-19 legislation. Specifically, the Senators ask for $20 million for the Telehealth Network Grant Program (TNGP) will expand school and community-based telehealth networks and training for providers to improve behavioral health care services for underserved populations in urban, rural, and frontier communities, particularly in schools. Press release

    EDOT Act of 2020 (H.R. 7078): (6/1) – Rep. Kelly (D-IL) and nine cosponsors introduced the Evaluating Disparities and Outcomes of Telehealth During the COVID-19 Emergency (EDOT) Act of 2020 (H.R. 7078), which would study the effects of changes to telehealth under the Medicare and Medicaid programs during the COVID-19 emergency. The Alliance is tracking this bill and others on our Telehealth Legislation page.

    Letter: (6/1) – House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Walden (R-OR), Communications & Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Latta (R-OH), Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Upton (R-MI), Environment & Climate Change Subcommittee Ranking Member Shimkus (R-IL), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Burgess (R-TX), Consumer Protection & Commerce Subcommittee Ranking Member Rodgers (R-WA) and Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Guthrie (R-KY) led 16 Senators in a letter to FCC Chair Pai in support of the 5G Upgrade Order, which would promote broadband across the country and support the economy, provide greater access to telehealth services, and facilitate distance learning. Press release

    Op-ed: (6/2) – Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair Wicker (R-MS) published an op-ed on how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of telehealth and medical research. Sen. Wicker notes that continued investments in telehealth, testing, and vaccine development will be critical to overcoming COVID-19 and preparing for future health challenges.

    CONNECT for Health Act of 2019 (S. 2741/H.R. 4932): (6/4) - CONNECT gained five bipartisan cosponsors in the House. The bill now has 33 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate and 44 bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

    News and Reports

    FAIR Health: (6/2) - According to a FAIR Health data, telehealth claim lines increased 4,347% nationally from March 2019 to March 2020. The influence of COVID-19 was most pronounced in the Northeast at more than 15,500% increase. Much of the increase was found in mental health. U.S. News Article. The Alliance is tracking COVID-19 telemedicine research and polling on our Studies & Reports page.

    Health Affairs: (6/2) - Despite the changes to telehealth, many health centers are still not ready to implement high-quality telehealth. As noted by the article, COVID-19 may pose long-lasting damaging effects on CHCs and the patient populations that they serve. Nonspecific federal and state funding will allow CHCs to survive; however, deliberate action is needed to enhance telehealth capacities and ensure long-term resilience.

    Fierce Healthcare: (6/2) – During a FierceHealthPayer event, Donna O'Shea, M.D., chief medical officer of population health management for UnitedHealthcare said that “the genie is out of the bottle,” on telehealth. UnitedHealthcare wants providers to continue to deliver telehealth but will need to follow some state regulations and CMS' lead with Medicare in order to make it work, O'Shea said.

    Forbes: (6/2) - Telehealth and AI are helping to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding the essential resources such as time, distance and medical staff capacity. The industry needs to improve the user experience and make telehealth appointments more accessible for people of all ages and backgrounds. We also need permanent solutions to data and privacy concerns.

    Modern Healthcare: (6/2) – In comments to CMS’ emergency changes to the Medicare program, provider groups want CMS to press forward by allowing more providers to take part in virtual care and boosting reimbursements for telehealth services. They also argued that the federal government should make these changes permanent.

    AXIOS: (6/3) - The use of telemedicine has exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, telemedicine is not the only aspect of the health care sector that experts anticipate changes. Jeff Semenchuk, Chief Innovation Officer at Blue Shield of California, says the pandemic has pushed his company to digitize health care whenever possible. That includes efforts to make electronic patient health records more easily accessible and to simplify the laborious process of payment claims.

    InsideHealthPolicy: (6/3) – CMS told IHP that extending many of the newly waived restrictions on telehealth beyond the pandemic would require Congress to step in, despite the president’s executive order aimed at making some COVID-19 regulatory waivers permanent.

    Modern Healthcare: (6/4) – HHS is reviewing possible steps to extend telemedicine flexibilities pushed through during the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior adviser at HHS said Thursday, but eliminating regulatory barriers will require support from other federal agencies, Congress and state governments.

    NCQA: (6/5) - The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) announced a sweeping set of adjustments to 40 of its widely-used HEDIS measures – in support of health plans, clinicians and patients who rely on telehealth. NCQA will release HEDIS measures for telehealth in the HEDIS Volume 2 Technical Specifications, to be published on July 1, 2020.

    Upcoming Events 

    June 9 – AHRQ, “A National Web Conference on the Role of Telehealth to Increase Access to Care and Improve Healthcare Quality.” Webinar

    June 17 - U.S. Senate - Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions, "Telehealth: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.  430 Dirksen Senate Office Building, 10:00 AM. 

    July 29 – STAT, “Inside the virtual care boom: What happens when the point of care becomes anywhere?Webinar

    Event Recordings 

    Please send any news or events to for inclusion in this newsletter.

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