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.
HHS: (8/18) – The Biden-Harris Administration announced key investments that will strengthen telehealth services in rural and underserved communities and expand telehealth innovation and quality nationwide. These investments, which total over $19 million, will be distributed to 36 award recipients through HRSA for activities such as building sustainable tele-mentoring programs and networks in rural and medically underserved communities and assessing telehealth strategies and services to improve health care in such areas with high rates of chronic disease and poverty. “Telehealth is crucial to providing convenient and sustained care for patients,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This funding demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s strong commitment to expanding access to quality health care for everyone, including in rural and underserved communities. I will continue to support innovative solutions that will strengthen our health care system.”
State Telehealth News and Activity
Inside Health Policy: Pandemic Highlights Interstate Challenges for Medicaid Kids’ Care (8/20) – Children’s health advocates hope the sudden focus on overloaded children’s hospitals transferring patients will renew interest among lawmakers in streamlining Medicaid provider screening and enrollment to make it easier to care for patients across state lines. These advocates have said that transfers are routine because not every state has a specialty children’s hospital, and it is not uncommon for kids to have to go out of state to receive care for a complex medical need. The process for approving out-of-state care for Medicaid-enrolled children, however, is burdensome and can delay care, which can lead to worse health outcomes.
Healthcare IT News: Mississippi provider org’s use of telehealth enables huge turnaround during the pandemic (8/18) – Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex applied to the Federal Communications Commission last year for a special telehealth grant. The health system serves a very rural, poverty-stricken area and is only one of 14 state-sanctioned mental health regions in the state. The system did not have the resources to offer telehealth services, let alone services by telephone which was a challenge for the client population. The organization received a $659,092 grant to make substantive changes in its provision of services, including providing staff with new computer equipment, purchasing telemedicine carts in each of the 14 sites throughout the region and telemedicine kiosks to place in sheriff’s departments, and upgrading software, among other areas. The organization experienced a 30 percent increase in clients served from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 as a result, compared with the loss of 50 percent of clients at the start of the pandemic.
The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio’s emergency telemedicine COVID-19 rules will expire. What happens next? (8/17) – In June, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ended the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, which caused the medical board in the state to resume the in-person requirement for visits on December 31. This has sparked worries for physicians who want to keep expanded telemedicine capabilities, and has given significance to pending state legislation that would make the pandemic-era rules permanent. Many advocates and providers fear losing patients who face barriers to access to care should telemedicine go back to pre-pandemic rules. House Bill 122, which has passed out of one chamber in the state legislature, would allow providers to give telehealth services for initial and annual visits as long as the appropriate standard of care is met. The bill co-sponsor, Rep. Mark Fraizer, stated that "It should be a conversation between the physician and the patient as far as what is the standard of care and what is best for the patient, rather than the Medical Board dictating that (in-person) visits have to occur carte blanche for everything."
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
Urology Times: Dr. Andino assesses how telemedicine can be used efficiently in future urological follow-up visits (8/22) – Juan José Andino, MD, discusses the takeaways of his study, “Video Visits are Practical for the Follow-up and Management of Established Male Infertility Patients,” as well as the future of telemedicine. “Being able to have a follow-up visit that is convenient, that saves time, that saves money, but that can allow you to put everything together for the patient…is still a very valuable tool,” says Juan José Andino, MD. Read the study here.
Telemedicine and e-Health: Perspectives on Telemedicine from a National Study of Youth in the United States (8/19) – A new study examined telemedicine knowledge, prior experiences, preferences for use, and the impact of COVID-19 on these perspectives on youth. The report found that youth are willing to accept a wide variety of telemedicine services, though they still desire in-person options. The authors suggest health systems and clinics should offer a wide range of services via telemedicine to fit the varying needs of youth both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
The Hill: We learned the value of telehealth during the pandemic: Congress must act now to extend it (8/19) – During a recent Capitol Hill briefing, Sharon described how she used telemedicine to manage a flare-up of her rare, blistering skin disease that required the knowledge of a specialist - located nearly 400 miles away in Philadelphia. Telehealth is a "godsend" for Sharon, reports Randall Rutta, CEO of the National Health Council and contributing author of a set of Principles for Telehealth Policy. Telehealth “[allows] her to manage her rare disease and to participate directly with her husband's doctors during his telehealth visits - something that has not been possible during a pandemic when only the patient and doctor can be in the room.”
Tabula Rasa HealthCare: TRHC and Drake University Partner to Demonstrate Value of Pairing Remote Patient Monitoring and MedWise® to Enhance Health Care in Rural Areas via Telehealth (8/19) – TRHC, a healthcare technology company advancing the safe use of medications, announced a new initiative with Drake University and Certintell to drive improved health outcomes and demonstrate the value of combining remote patient monitoring (RPM) and comprehensive medication management, throughout rural Iowa. The project is being funded through a 5-year $1.6 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Business Insider: A clinic's struggles with telehealth in Silicon Valley's shadow shows how the poor are at risk of being left out of healthcare's future (8/18) – During the coronavirus pandemic, LifeLong Medical Care, which operates nonprofit clinics that care for underserved communities in and around Berkley, California made a surprising discovery – When the health centers switched many visits to phone or video appointments, LifeLong’s no-show rate drastically dropped. Now, though, LifeLong is struggling to figure out whether it should invest in expensive technology that could host more and better-quality audio and video visits, because it's not clear whether the government health programs that cover the bulk of its patients will pay for telehealth going forward.
Current Health: 81% Of Health Systems Plan to Increase Investment in Care at Home (8/18) - In this White Paper, Current Health highlights new research exploring perceptions, adoption, and trends in remote care delivery. The research – based on a survey of 250 health system decision makers – found that 89% of health systems expanded their use of remote care technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 81% expect their organization to increase those investments in the next 12 months.
MobiHealthNews: TytoCare, Prisma Health partner to expand telehealth services (8/18) – Telehealth specialist TytoCare announced a partnership with Prisma Health, South Carolina’s largest healthcare system, that will enable its patients to perform telehealth-guided medical exams through Prisma providers. Prisma is also using TytoCare for its federally funded post-COVID-19 disaster relief program, offering the device to patients who would benefit from more comprehensive telehealth visits. The health system will also tap into the company’s telehealth services for use in schools, behavioral health, walk-in clinics and senior care.
Modern Healthcare: School-based telehealth centers bridge gaps in care (8/17) – Health systems are increasingly expanding telehealth services in the nation’s schools as a way of providing lower-cost primary care, especially in areas where transportation and clinician shortages are barriers to care. Partnering with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and the Dover Foundation, Atrium Health in 2017 launched a pilot telehealth program at three North Carolina school districts. Since its implementation, Grinton said there has been a 90% student enrollment rate resulting in several thousand telehealth appointments and a 40% reduction in emergency department visits for students that use the school-based virtual clinic.
American Board of Telehealth: American Board of Telehealth Offers New Teleprimary Care Certificate Program to Help Primary Care Teams Succeed with Virtual Services in a Post-Pandemic Future (8/17) – The American Board of Telehealth announced the launch of a new Teleprimary Care Certificate program designed to help primary care providers develop telehealth strategies for a post-pandemic future. The self-paced, online program explores innovative telehealth models and best practices that will enable primary care teams to overcome key challenges, such as reimbursement parity, regulatory barriers, infrastructure costs and new competition from retail clinics and urgent-care centers.
Health Leaders: Evolent Health Acquiring Vital Decisions In $130m Deal (8/17) – Arlington, Virginia-based Evolent Health has announced its planned $130 million purchase of Vital Decisions, an Edison, New Jersey-based telehealth company that specializes in end-of-life care. "We believe this transaction… unlocks patient engagement and telehealth as levers for ensuring patients with complex illness receive high-quality, coordinated care,” Evolent Health CEO Seth Blackley said.
Business Insider: $380 billion juggernaut UnitedHealth is getting into one of the hottest parts of healthcare, and that should be a warning for upstarts like Hims and Ro (8/16) – Optum has added several services to its online pharmacy, including a cash-only telehealth service so people can get prescriptions for birth control or medication to treat anxiety, depression and other common illnesses.
NBC News: How Black women are empowering one another to talk sexual health (8/12) – As a child, Dr. Adrienne Robertson spent a lot of time in the hospital, due to her chronic asthma. “I had some good experiences, but I honestly had a lot of negative ones where I felt like I just wasn’t listened to,” Robertson said. “That led me into a path of wanting to make a difference.” Robertson said the pandemic greatly exposed health disparities and changed the way the general population received medical care as in-person appointments were limited. She witnessed how the accessibility and privacy of telehealth resulted in more people seeing it as a viable option. It gave many marginalized patients, including Black women, an opportunity to feel more comfortable opening up about their sexual health in ways they may not have in a clinical setting prior to the pandemic.
HIMSS TV, “Beyond Telehealth: Toward an Omnichannel Healthcare Future.” Shez Partovi, MD, Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at Philips, discusses how seamless digital health solutions like Philips HealthSuite help optimize provider workflows and activate patients to manage their health.