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Last Week in Connected Care

Week Ending July 10, 2020

Please find below updates on how the health care system is leveraging telehealth and remote patient monitoring - including research, data, and polling on its current use in response to COVID-19.

Comments Due Today

Taskforce on Telehealth Policy 

The multi-stakeholder Taskforce on Telehealth Policy, convened by the Alliance for Connected Care, NCQA and ATA is seeking input from the public as it develops policy recommendations to advance quality and patient experience while establishing a stable, long-term environment that fosters the growth and integration of remote services within the healthcare system.

  • Listen to NCQA’s Peggy O’Kane and Frank Micciche’s podcast featuring our Taskforce on Telehealth Policy here.

The Taskforce RFI was highlighted by POLITICO, Inside Health PolicyHealth Leaders Media, Becker's Hospital Review, mHealthIntelligence and Bloomberg Law

Alliance News


On Thursday, July 9 the Alliance joined a dozen other organizations representing patients, health plans, hospitals, clinicians, and technology companies to host the Health IT Leadership Roundtable on, “Virtual Care as the New Normal.” 

A recording of the event is available here. Featured in the event are CMS Administrator Verma, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD),  and HHS Advisor to the Secretary Nicholas Uehlecke (among other great speakers) who all expressed support for continuing extended telehealth access.  It was also indicated that the public health emergency would be renewed this month. 

    Media Coverage:

    Modern Healthcare: (7/8) – Krista Drobac was quoted in a Modern Healthcare article on states moving to make permanent changes during COVID-19 to telehealth coverage and access. "We are thrilled to see Colorado and Idaho embracing telehealth by permanently breaking down state regulatory barriers. The reality is that many of the barriers in place needlessly restrict patient access to healthcare providers through technology. The flexibilities allowed during this pandemic have clearly illustrated the necessity of re-examining the rules that were so quickly changed for an emergency," said Krista Drobac, executive director of the Alliance for Connected Care.  Also featured in MedPageToday.

    mHealthIntelligence: (7/7) – The 340 group telehealth advocacy  letter, co-led by the Alliance which called for telehealth access created during the COVID-19 pandemic to be made permanent was featured in mHealthIntelligence this week. The letter has now been highlighted by CQ Health, Inside Health Policy, Fierce Healthcare, Health Leaders, Healthcare Finance News, Becker’s Hospital Review, Healthcare IT News, + Mass Device, and mHealthIntelligence.

      Federal Agency Telehealth Activity / Guidance

      The Alliance for Connected Care continues to update a COVID-19 website tracking guidance.

      National Cancer Institute (NCI): (7/7) – NCI released a request for information (RFI) on scientific gaps and research needs related to the delivery of cancer-related care via telehealth. Comments are due by July 30.

      Federal Communications Commission (FCC): (7/8) – FCC approved the 14th and final set of COVID-19 Telehealth Program applications, funding an additional 25 health care providers. FCC approved 539 funding applications in 47 states and Washington, D.C. and Guam for a total of $200 million in funding – the amount provided by Congress in the CARES Act. View list of awards here.

      VA Office of Inspector General (OIG): (7/8) – VA OIG released a report on access to dermatology, orthopedics, and urology specialty care for patients in the seventeen Veterans Health Administration (VHA) community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) classified as highly rural. VA OIG found that sites more commonly used referrals to parent facilities and community specialty providers and rarely used telehealth, inter-facility consults and electronic consults (eConsults) to provide specialty care in highly rural areas. VA OIG made four recommendations to the Under Secretary for Health, one of which is to include internet bandwidth and telehealth equipment in a specialty care needs assessment for highly rural CBOCs and develop options for the delivery of safe patient care.

      Department of Veterans Affairs: (7/8) – VA awarded a 10-year, $100 million contract with Royal Philips to expands it tele-ICU program and purchase tele-critical care technologies and services. View the press release here.

        Congressional Activity and Legislation

        The Alliance for Connected Care continues to update a recent telehealth legislation page.

        H.R. 7571: (7/9) – Rep. Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 7571, which would expand access in frontier States to mental health services furnished through telehealth, and for other purposes. Sens. Sullivan (R-AK) and Rosen (D-NV) previously introduced similar legislation in the Senate (S. 4211). Bill text will be linked on the Alliance website when posted.

        News and Reports

        Business Insider: (7/5) – "I think that it is crystal clear that we need to continue telehealth," CMS Administrator Verma said in an interview with Business Insider. "I think in what capacity, how we do reimbursement, determining in what types of medicine it works best in — all of that is going to continue to evolve. But the case for telehealth is clear," she said.

        FAIR Health: (7/6) – FAIR Health released April data finding that commercial telehealth claim lines increased 8,335% nationally from April 2019 to April 2020. The influence of COVID-19 was most pronounced in the Northeast at more than 26,000% increase. The Alliance is tracking COVID-19 telemedicine research and polling on our Studies & Reports page.

        Fierce Healthcare: (7/6) – U.S. digital health companies raised $5.4 billion in venture funding across the first six months of 2020 – setting up for the largest funding year for digital health ever.

        mHealthIntelligence: (7/7) – The Reliance Medical Group, a medical group located in New Jersey, has developed a telehealth platform with a 14-person staff that does everything from scheduling online appointments to researching the latest on CPT codes and reimbursement.

        America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP): (7/7) – AHIP released a fact sheet highlighting telehealth growth during COVID-19. The fact sheet highlights growth in telehealth claims to private insurers, health plan examples and keys to sustained growth.

        Fierce Healthcare: (7/7) – The American Academy of Family Physicians has teamed up with startup Suki to test a voice-enabled, AI-powered clinical digital assistant that helps with tedious documentation tasks when using electronic health record (EHR) systems. AAFP is looking to recruit 100 doctors to test out the voice assistant.

        mHealthIntelligence: (7/8) – Walgreens announced a $1 billion partnership with VillageMD to open connected health clinics in as many as 700 locations across the country over the next five years.

        The Washington Post: (7/9) – A primary care physician and director of population health for the Division of General Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital recounts his experience with deploying telehealth tools during the COVID-19 pandemic and the disparities in access to vulnerable patients.

        Fierce Healthcare: (7/9) – HHS Secretary Azar said during a Hill event that the Trump Administration will take regulatory steps to support the permanent expansion of telehealth services. "Telehealth is now an embedded part of the healthcare system. It has changed the nature of delivery. We’re going to do everything we can through regulations to keep the gains that we’ve had and to keep the patient and the doctor relationship in the center," he said. View a recording of the event here.

        Fierce Healthcare: (7/9) – Doctor on Demand raised $75 million to build out its technology and invest in its virtual primary care and behavioral health platform.

        Vivify Health: (7/9) – A new survey of healthcare consumers found that 70% of respondents say at least one of their providers offers telehealth – an increase from just 17% from last year’s survey. In addition, 79% of respondents reported they are interested in switching to providers who can accommodate virtual visits.

        Notable Telehealth Commentay

        "I think we'd have a revolution if anyone tried to go backwards on this," HHS Secretary Azar said during a Hill event. "This is now I think an embedded part of our health care system." HHS plans to "do everything we can by regulation to keep the gains that we've had to put the patient, that doctor relationship, the hospital relationship in the center."

        "We need to do everything we can to make healthcare more accessible and affordable, and telehealth is one powerful tool we have in our arsenal," CMS Administrator Verma said during the Health IT Leadership Roundtable on virtual care.

        "I think that it is crystal clear that we need to continue telehealth," CMS Administrator Verma said in an interview with Business Insider. "I think in what capacity, how we do reimbursement, determining in what types of medicine it works best in — all of that is going to continue to evolve. But the case for telehealth is clear," she said.

        “There's strong support in Congress to advance telehealth,” Sen. Cardin (D-MD) said during his remarks at the Health IT Leadership Roundtable on virtual care. “I expect it will be included in the next round of COVID legislation.” I am a believer in telehealth."

        “We have truly taken a massive step with telehealth… I encourage people to collect more data on utilization. The stronger the data, the more support for it,” – Nicholas Uehlecke, Advisor, Immediate Office of the Secretary, HHS, said during the Health IT Leadership Roundtable.

        Upcoming Events 

        July 16 – National Association of Counties (NACo), “Telehealth and COVID-19: How Digital Platforms Are Critical to Accessing Health Care Services.Webinar

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

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