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This Week in Connected Care:
Recent Developments and Clips

Week Ending April 17, 2020

The Alliance for Connected Care continues to maintain and update a website tracking key guidance from federal agencies on telehealth and remote patient monitoring as well as a page listing major updates and resources related to COVID-19 – including a state emergency waiver tracking chart. 

Alliance News

The Alliance submitted comments to CMS on the COVID-19 Interim Final Rule (4/14) – which included expanding flexibility for audio-only telehealth to a broader set of services, technical fixes to ensure telehealth can be delivered by more clinicians, including changes to distance site provider rules, additional flexibility for E-Visits and Virtual Check-ins, to ensure robust data collection during this time period so that the nation may learn from its experience with telehealth and remote patient monitoring, and to expand efforts to educate Medicare beneficiaries about utilizing telehealth.

CNET Now What series (4/14) – featured Executive Director Krista Drobac and Kerry Palakanis, Executive Director for Connected Care at Intermountain Healthcare to discuss the vital role of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Director Krista Drobac said, “Our biggest problem has been the first visit ... People have a perception [about it]," she said. "But what they experience is that they can really get care virtually. I think those barriers will be broken down by this pandemic." Video can be viewed here.

The Alliance posted a new page highlighting COVID-19 resources created by other organizations  (4/15) – to assist members, health care providers and telehealth advocates in understanding the current state-of-play for telehealth during COVID-19. Please send resources to for inclusion on this page.

CHeT Talks featured Executive Director Krista Drobac (4/17) – on how tech is transforming research and care. Krista Drobac shared telemedicine policy and legislative updates related to COVID-19 as well as predictions about how telemedicine may be impacted in the future.

    Congressional Activity and Legislation –

    Letter to Expand Eligible Telehealth Providers: (4/14) – Reps. Fletcher (D-TX), Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Matsui (D-CA), and McKinley (R-WV) led a bipartisan letter to HHS Secretary Azar to expand the types of providers eligible to provide telehealth services under Medicare during the COVID-19 pandemic to include physical therapy practitioners, occupational therapy practitioners, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists. Press release:

    Sen. Cruz to introduce the Equal Access to Care Act: (4/15) – In a press release, Sen. Cruz (R-TX) announced that he intends to introduce the Equal Access to Care Act, which will allow licensed health care providers to use telemedicine to treat patients over the phone and online regardless of the state where the provider is licensed and where the patient is located.

    Letter on Virtual Diabetes Prevention Program: (4/16) – Sens. Warner (D-VA) and Scott (R-SC) led a bipartisan letter to HHS Secretary Azar and CMS Administrator Verma to reimburse virtual Diabetes Prevention Program providers during the public health emergency and beyond. Press release:

    Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act (4/10) - Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 6474 to provide $2 billion to expand telehealth and high-quality internet connectivity at public and nonprofit healthcare facilities.

      Federal Agency Telehealth Activity 

      CMS: (4/15) - CMS updated the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Blanket Waivers for Health Care Providers with new waivers for inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS) hospitals, long-term care hospitals (LTCHs) and inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs) due to provisions in the CARES Act. Article:

      Federal Communications Commission: (4/16) – The FCC approved the first set of applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program to six hard-hit health systems in Georgia, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio for a total of $3.23 million out of the $200 million total.

      CMS: (4/17) – CMS posted an article and updated FAQs on new and expanded flexibilities for rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These new flexibilities include new payments for telehealth services and expansion of virtual communication services, among others.  

        State Activity

        To date, forty-eight states, including D.C. have waived – to varying extents – state licensure laws in order to facilitate cross-border care, sometimes explicitly including telehealth. In addition, several states have requested flexibility to incent greater use of telehealth through Medicaid Section 1135 Waivers. The Alliance for Connected Care is tracking these developments on our website.

            News and Reports

            Kaiser Family Foundation: (4/13) – Findings from the latest KFF Health Tracking Polll suggest telehealth might have limited reach among older adults. While 68 percent of adults 65 and older said they have a computer, smart phone or tablet with internet access at home, only 11 percent said they have used the device to communicate with a health care provider in the past two weeks. KFF reflects that these low rates may indicate a lack of need, not a lack of interest.

            Mobihealthnews: (4/13) – A new poll found that consumers report greater satisfaction with digital health services than other virtual services. Among the 31% of participants who said they had received care remotely, 41% described their experience as “good” or “excellent” suggesting consumers may continue to use telehealth services post COVID-19.

            U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: (4/13) – VA announced an uptick in virtual mental health care amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth group therapy conducted more than 2,700 visits in March, a more than 200% increase from the prior month. Mental health care and consultation delivered by phone rose to more than 154,000 appointments in March, up 280% from February. Finally, Vet Centers across the nation held more than 47,000 virtual appointments in March, a 200% increase from February.

            Los Angeles Business Journal: (4/13) – Patients rapidly turning to telehealth is causing many companies to move their telehealth business segments from the sidelines to the forefront.

            Des Moines Register: (4/13) – A previous attempt to bring telehealth to Iowa seemed like a near-impossible challenge – then COVID-19 came lifting previous payment parity restrictions – and one health system experienced a 176% in virtual visits in just one month.

            STAT Morning Rounds: (4/14) – According to a new study, the majority of doctor visits conducted via telemedicine are an appropriate replacement for in-person care.

            New York Times Opinion: (4/14) – The coronavirus is forcing reforms like those in telemedicine which could change America’s health care system forever if Congress requires it.

            California Health Care Foundation: (4/14) – CHCF released a report on managed care plan (MCP) use of telehealth from 2019 survey data. Across most MCPs, member and provider use of telehealth across modalities is low, however, MCPs are confident telehealth will improve specialty care access, member satisfaction, and care coordination.

            Duke Today: (4/15) – Duke Health recounts the impact of COVID-19 on telemedicine surge and discusses expanding telehealth to treat during COVID-19 and in the future.

            Becker’s Hospital Review: (4/15) - To help expand access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, several insurance companies have loosened restrictions on telehealth claims for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related care. Included are four major payers that have expanded telehealth coverage.

            Journal of Medical Internet Research: (4/15) – A new study on telehealth finds that two-thirds of veterans preferred or were equally satisfied with video visits vs. in person care.

            Healthcare IT News: (4/16) – GE Healthcare – hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform – has introduced a new cloud-based remote-monitoring tool designed to help clinicians monitor the ventilation status of multiple ICU patients at once.

            Fast Company: (4/16) – Bob Kocher, a physician recently chosen by California Governor Newsom to serve on the state’s public-private coronavirus testing task force discusses how COVID-19 is normalizing telehealth.

            STAT Morning Rounds: (4/16) – A new study finds that patients using a smartphone-based monitoring protocol to maintain their blood pressure after a heart attack had equal rates of success as patients who went in-person to clinicians for follow-up.

            POLITICO Pro: (4/16) – Rural and community health clinics are struggling to adopt telehealth during the pandemic, potentially widening the disparity in access to care.

            mHealthIntelligence: (4/16) – OSF Healthcare – a 14-hospital health system based in Illinois – has launched the Pandemic Health Worker program, which uses remote patient monitoring to triage and treat coronavirus patients in their homes.

            Fierce Healthcare: (4/17) – Healthcare leaders are urging CMS and ONC to incentivize telehealth adoption not just during COVID-19. Healthcare executives said there’s an opportunity for ONC to advance the use of technical standards that support broader use

            Upcoming Events 

            April 20 – Health Resources & Services Administration, “Telehealth Learning Series: Telehealth in the Time of COVID-19.” Webinar

            April 28 – Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center, “Culture of Telemedicine.” Webinar

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

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