Rep. Langworthy (R-NY): Introduction of the Rural Telehealth and Education Enhancement Act of 2023 (H.R. 5308) (8/29) - On August 29, Rep. Langworthy (R-NY) and 11 bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Rural Telehealth and Education Enhancement Act of 2023 (H.R. 5308), which would reauthorize the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program of the Department of Agriculture.
House Budget Committee: Chairman Arrington, Rep. Burgess Launch Budget Committee Health Care Task Force (8/25) - House Budget Committee Chairman Arrington (R-TX) and Budget Committee Member Rep. Burgess (R-TX) announced that the Committee has launched a new Budget Committee Health Care Task Force, which will be led by Rep. Burgess. The goal of this Task Force is to find solutions to reduce health care spending, examine opportunities to modernize and personalize the health care system, and support policies to fuel innovation and increase patient access to quality and affordable care.
To help inform the Health Care Task Force’s work, Task Force members issued a request for information (RFI) to solicit feedback from independent experts and stakeholders on solutions to improve outcomes and reduce federal health care spending in the budget. Responses are kindly requested by October 15, 2023.
The Hill: Protecting the Health of Americans and Their Pocketbooks (8/22) - House Budget Committee Chairman Arrington (R-TX) and Budget Committee Member Rep. Burgess (R-TX) published an opinion piece in The Hill highlighting how a task force is needed to focus on key drivers of health care costs to the federal budget. The Task Force will also seek more innovative care offering greater personalization, convenience and lower prices, like telehealth. Both Representatives note that telehealth can increase the efficiency and convenience of care delivery while expanding access for the most vulnerable.
Rep. Trone (D-MD): Introduction of the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services Act (H.R. 5163) (8/4) - On August 4, Reps. Trone (D-MD), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Obernolte (R-CA), Tonko (D-NY), Kuster (D-NH), and Trahan (D-MA) introduced the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services Act (H.R. 5163), which would allow for the use of telehealth in substance use disorder treatment.
Department of Agriculture: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Nearly $700 Million to Connect People in Remote and Rural Areas to High-Speed Internet (8/21) - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack announced nearly $700 million in grants and loans to connect thousands of rural residents to reliable, affordable high-speed internet through the ReConnect Program, funded by President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This program is uniquely designed to fund the most difficult high-speed internet projects in the nation, which are the most rural, remote and unserved communities, which is crucial for rural patients to meaningfully interact with telehealth services.
BMC Medicine: Telehealth in Antenatal Care (8/30) - This narrative review examines the impact of telehealth on obstetric care. The review found that adoption of telehealth technologies may improve the antenatal care experience for women and reduce health care expenditure without adversely impacting health outcomes for the mother or baby. Health economic studies also suggest telehealth has the potential to reduce the financial cost of care provision.
JAMA Health Forum: Telehealth and In-Person Mental Health Service Utilization and Spending, 2019 to 2022 (8/25) - Trends in mental health service utilization and spending before expiration of the public health emergency (PHE) in May 2023 are largely undocumented. Researchers assessed monthly telehealth vs in-person utilization and spending rates for mental health services among commercially insured US adults between 2019 and 2022. The study found that utilization and spending rates for mental health care services among commercially insured adults increased by 38.8 percent and 53.7 percent, respectively, between 2019 and 2022. These findings suggest that telehealth utilization for mental health services remains persistent and elevated. See RAND Corporation press release here. For additional coverage, see The New York Times, Healthcare Dive, Behavioral Health Business, Axios, and mHealth Intelligence,.
Software Advice: 95 Percent of Patients Say Telehealth is Easiest Way to Access Health Services (8/23) - Software Advice, an information services company, conducted a survey in which 95 percent of participating patients reported telehealth to be the easiest option when seeking a diagnosis. Additionally, 67 percent of the respondents rated the process as "extremely easy." Software Advice labels telemedicine as "one of the most valuable tools available" that independent practices could implement. For additional coverage, see Becker's Hospital Review.
JAMA Network Open: Telemedicine Visits in US Skilled Nursing Facilities (8/18) - Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in the United States rapidly adopted telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was linked to improved access to psychiatry visits. Researchers found that, compared with 2018-2019, SNFs with high telehealth use in 2020-2021 provided about 20.2 percent more psychiatry visits per resident year than low-use SNFs. High-telehealth use SNFs also provided approximately 7.2 percent more outpatient visits for residents with limited mobility. Further, SNFs with high telehealth use had fewer routine visits on weekends and no difference in new outpatient visits with specialist physicians compared with low-telehealth use SNFs. Researchers concluded that telemedicine likely helped maintain established patient-clinician connections and expanded access to potential new clinicians, especially amid the long-standing decline in psychiatrist numbers. For additional coverage, see mHealth Intelligence.
National Governors Association (NGA): Implementing Best Practices Across The Continuum Of Care To Prevent Overdose (8/15) - The NGA released a Roadmap for Governors, which contains recommendations that represent evidence-based and promising actions states and territories can consider as they work to strengthen the Continuum of Care for people at risk for overdose, including those with substance use disorder (SUD). Within the Roadmap are two telehealth recommendations:
Leverage telemedicine for SUD treatment and invest in efforts to co-locate MOUD via telehealth in community-based settings, including harm reduction and outreach programs.
Leverage the telehealth flexibilities given to states to allow for Medicaid coverage of low-barrier MOUD via telehealth; remove state-level requirements for in-person visits associated with telehealth SUD treatment.
Assurance: The Impact & Perceptions of Telemedicine (7/26) - Assurance, an insurance company, conducted a survey which found that 90 percent of respondents would recommend telehealth to someone who hasn't previously tried it. Of potential significance to health care generally was that 62 percent of respondents said availability of telemedicine makes them more likely to seek care they would otherwise put off. For additional coverage, see Medical Economics.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
Illinois Department of Agriculture: Gov. Pritzker Announced Increased Access to Mental Health Services for Rural Farmers and Agricultural Communities (8/29) - Illinois expanded a federally funded pilot program that created a telehealth network for mental healthcare in six counties to all 102 counties in the state, and is adding grants to support new programs that expand access to care. The Farm Family Resource Initiative offers telehealth access for mental health services to rural farming and ranching communities, where suicide rates are two to five times higher than other populations. For additional coverage, see Health Leaders.
Hackensack Meridian Health: Telehealth Makes a Difference for ALS Patient (8/29) - The ALS Center at Jersey Shore uses telehealth to link patients with organizations that can provide speed devices and mobility equipment. Telehealth appointments tremendously helps people with limited mobility. Telehealth also helps ALS patients feel additional support and connection between appointments.
The Great Recovery: Telehealth Bridges the Mental Health Gap for Older Rural Folks (8/25) - Remote psychotherapy sessions aren’t just more convenient than lengthy round-trips for in-person appointments. Encounter Health partnered with nursing homes and assisted living centers, with the majority in rural areas, and has seen a significant reduction in unnecessary prescriptions with nursing homes that have not previously specialized behavioral health care.
National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (NCTRC): NCTRC Drafts Comments For Stakeholders On State Broadband Programs (8/23) - The NCTRC Digital Equity Initiatives Committee released a draft comment letter for stakeholders to send to their respective state broadband expansion initiatives funded by President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law so the investment can be maximized for virtual health care use. To bridge the digital divide and expand access to telehealth, NCTRC wrote that there needs to be increased collaboration between health care and telehealth entities to develop solutions that leverage broadband technology.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: New NIH-Funded Center Supports Telehealth Research (8/23) - With $3.7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, Carolina launched in August a five-year project to establish the Center for Virtual Care Value and Equity (ViVE). The grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will support research on the use of online services, remote monitoring and text-based messaging to deliver health care services remotely. Through partnerships with the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program network, ViVE will disseminate and promote tools, educational resources and training to fill the critical gap in health access and equity.
Healthcare IT News: Telehealth Education and Equipment Help Close Equity Gaps (8/16) - In a partnership with the Denver Housing Authority, the Denver health system has installed on-site equipment and held monthly workshops – increasing patient portal activation to 63 percent from 58 percent across five DHA communities. The majority of these patients are racial/ethnic minority populations, dually eligible for Medicare/Medicaid, with multi-morbidity and high health care needs and lower health and digital literacy. Equipping individuals with baseline health and digital literacy allows for greater engagement and ownership in their health and health information, which may lead to better health outcomes.
Healthcare IT News, "Telehealth Innovation Under Expanded Reimbursement." The commitment to telehealth from CMS offers medical specialties the freedom to innovate and provide better and more equitable care, says Dr. Robert Murry, chief medical officer of NextGen Healthcare and a practicing family physician.
Healthcare IT News, "Informed Telesupport Reduced Cardiac Patient Readmissions." Dr. Alan Spiro, president and CMO of Laguna Health explained how research done in conjunction with NorthShore University Health System showed that using telehealth to address "life context factors" can improve access and reduce costs.