Alliance for Connected Care: Telehealth Resource Centers Support Letter (5/31) – The Alliance for Connected Care and more than 80 organizations called on Congressional Appropriators to increase funding for Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs). This increase in funding would provide a critical boost to the TRCs, which have experienced a high of an 800% increase in demand for telehealth assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic across the nation, yet have been level-funded since 2006. Additional news coverage on this can be found at Inside Telehealth.
House GOP Healthy Future Task Force: The Healthy Future Task Force Announces Solutions to Modernize Health Care (6/1) – The Healthy Future Task Force co-chairs, Rep. Buchanan (R-FL) and Rep. Guthrie (R-KY), and the Modernization Subcommittee announced the Task Force’s solutions to harness technological innovations to improve Americans’ lives and save taxpayer dollars. Telehealth solutions include Alliance for Connected Care priorities of addressing originating site requirements and geographic restrictions, and allowing greater employer coverage of telehealth for individuals with Health Savings Account-eligible high-deductible health plans.
Inside Telehealth: Senate Finance Telehealth Draft Requires CMS Continue to Embrace Interstate Compacts (6/3) – In the recently released Senate Finance’s draft telehealth-mental health bill, the bill provides a vague paragraph on interstate licensing. A Senate staffer clarified the language on interstate licensing in the Senate Finance’s draft telehealth-mental health bill. The staffer clarified that Section 8 of bill requires that CMS regularly update its current coverage guidance to make it clear Medicare covers tele-mental health services when a practitioner participates in a state that is part of an interstate licensure compact and the beneficiary is also located in a state that recognizes the compact.
Government Accountability Office: National Strategy Needed to Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Digital Divide (5/31) – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on broadband, which recommends the White House to develop and implement a national broadband strategy with clear roles, goals, objectives, and performance measures to support better management of fragmented, overlapping federal broadband programs and synchronize coordination efforts. Increased broadband access would help underserved populations virtually access essential health care services, such as telehealth. (Note that the Biden Administration announced a major broadband initiative several weeks ago that is likely not captured)
Health Affairs: Strengthening Behavioral Healthcare to Meet the Needs of Our Nation (5/31) – Several leaders at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provided an overview of current and future policies meant to improve access and equity to mental health and substance abuse treatments. They highlight the use of telehealth for school based behavioral health services in Medicaid, the creation of a State Medicaid and CHIP Telehealth toolkit to assist states in expanding the use of telehealth, and they encourage states to maintain telehealth coverage in subacute settings.
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
mHealth Intelligence: Telehealth Raises Visit Completion Rate by 20 Percent for Rural Residents (6/2) – A study
published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that telemedicine is an effective alternative to in-person care for rural residents, helping to drive up appointment completion rates. Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study, using the data to determine any correlation between the rate of visit completion and the setting in which a visit occurred. The study suggests that telemedicine may facilitate access to care for difficult-to-reach patients, such as those in rural areas, as well as those who have rigid work schedules, live longer distances from the clinic, have complex health problems, and are from areas of higher poverty and/or lower education.
Science Daily: Study Evaluates How to Eliminate Telemedicine's Virtual Waiting Room (6/1) – A study published in Quality Management in Health Care found that text messaging provides a way to connect patients and doctors without relying on the virtual waiting room. Twenty-two patients at a stroke clinic participated in the two-and-a-half-month study. Patients chose to either receive a text, which included a visit link when their provider was ready for their visit or the standard telehealth routine of logging in at a scheduled time and waiting in front of a camera in a virtual waiting room. Results showed that zero patients were seen late, while fifty-five percent of the patients were seen early. On average, there was a 55-minute time savings in clinic operations due to patients being seen early.
United Press International: Telehealth Exams are Recommended for Older Adults with Blood Cancers (5/31) – A study
assessing telehealth-based exams found telehealth to be a good substitute for frailty assessments, which are recommended for seniors undergoing systemic therapy, such as chemotherapy. The study included 185 blood cancer patients aged 73 and older between November 2020 and March 2022 who had virtual assessments. About 81 percent of the participants who did the virtual testing completed the test successfully and had no falls or safety events during the study time. The study provides implications of expanding access to technology, particularly monitoring devices, so that more patients can take advantage of telehealth resources.
UT Southwestern Medical Center: Telemedicine, Continuous Glucose Monitoring Mitigated Effects of Pandemic on Children with Diabetes (5/31) – A recent study published in BMC Pediatrics found the rapid adoption of telemedicine and increased use of continuous glucose monitoring helped to attenuate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children with Type 1 diabetes. The study analyzed patient characteristics including insurance status, race, ethnicity, gender, glucose control, office visits, and hospitalizations, and compared the use of continuous glucose monitoring in the year prior to the start of the pandemic to the first year of the pandemic. The study found that increased use of continue glucose monitoring along with telemedicine prevented worse outcomes in this patient population.
mHealthIntelligence: Initiating Telehealth Visits Through Text Messaging Benefits Patients - Researchers from the University of California Dan Diego found that connecting with a patient through text messaging to let them know when their provider was ready to see them provided patients with scheduling flexibility. Successes included patient flexibility and time savings for patients and providers. Expansion to other clinic settings is underway with a mantra of “UCSD Tele-Untethered: Your provider can see you now.”
State Telehealth News and Activity
Texas Tribune: A State-Funded Telehealth Program for Youth Offers Services to Uvalde, Texas (6/3) – A state-funded telehealth program for youth is offering services to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District to help identify students and families in mental or emotional crises and give them counseling or therapy services they may not otherwise have access to. The Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine program funnels resources and expertise into a network of doctors, counselors and other professionals at universities in 12 regions across the state to respond to children identified in schools as showing signs of distress.
mHealth Intelligence: Hospitals’ Telehealth Partnership Aims to Cut Down on Long Travel Times (6/2) – A virtual care collaboration between Alliance Member Ascension St. Vincent’s Chilton and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medicine aims to provide care while eliminating travel constraints. The tele-critical and tele-stroke care programs will allow hospitalists from Ascension St. Vincent’s Chilton to connect with UAB intensivists, who will remotely review patient medical records and perform virtual assessments. The organizations believe these programs will help health care access in rural communities.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
The National Law Review: Prescribing Controlled Substances Through Telehealth Needs Action from Congress or the Drug Enforcement Administration (6/3) – The future of prescribing controlled substances via telehealth after the COVID-era telehealth flexibilities is uncertain. Currently, the pandemic waived the federal Controlled Substances Act and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations of requiring an in-person examination prior to issuing a prescription for controlled substances via telehealth. While industry groups wait for additional action from Congress or the DEA, telehealth providers and their pharmacy partners should adopt systems to ensure that systems are in place to combat over-prescribing and screen for medications that could have adverse effects when taken together. As telehealth’s prevalence has increased, so will enforcement efforts targeted at telehealth providers, especially when controlled substances are involved. The Alliance for Connected Care has long advocated on this issue (and hopes to see new regulation soon). We provide background on DEA prescribing of controlled substances here.
AJMC: Telehealth Utilization Continued to Decline Nationally in March 2022 (6/2) - The president of FAIR Health published a op-ed reporting on their most recent telehealth tracking data. Their data shows that telehealth's share of all medical claim lines has fallen to 4.6 percent of all medical claims as of March 2022. The data represent the privately insured population, including Medicare Advantage and excluding Medicare Fee-for-Service and Medicaid.
MedCity News: When it Comes to Digital Health, Access is the Bare Minimum (5/30) – As telehealth has become a bigger part of the healthcare system, focusing on access is important, but quality of care matters, too. When digital health platforms are thoughtful, innovative, and focused on delivering quality care, they can offer a more inspiring vision for the future of healthcare. Digital health models that thoughtfully center telehealth give patients more seamless access to their providers, which can drive better outcomes.