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.
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RSVP: Telehealth Summit for Health Systems: Join the Alliance for Connected Care for the virtual Telehealth Summit for Health Systems on April 22-23, 2021. Hear from federal policymakers and executives at health systems, and participate in working sessions on policy and operational issues. RSVP here.
“In the first year, the Biden-Harris Administration will work through ONDCP to coordinate with other White House components and the interagency to:
Publish final rules this year regarding telemedicine special registration and methadone treatment vans; and”
Group letter to HHS Secretary Becerra – mHealth Intelligence Coverage: (4/7) – Roughly 20 organizations, including the Alliance for Connected Care have signed a letter asking Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to extend Medicare coverage for virtual visits during the PHE and “work on longer-term reforms” that would make connected health a permanent part of the program. View the letter here. The letter can be viewed here.
VA Office of Inspector General (OIG): (4/6) – VA OIG issued a review of community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) closures that occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic to evaluate the impact on patient care. Clinicians of closed CBOCs triaged patients care needs and provided care options through using were telephone visit, VA Video Connect, rescheduled appointment for a later date, or an outpatient visit at the parent facility. Patients voice appreciation of available care options, and facility personnel concluded that virtual care visits increased, which may positively affect patient access long-term.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): (4/8) – The USDA announced that it is accepting applications for Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program grants to help provide educational and medical services in rural areas. The DLT program helps fund distance learning and telemedicine services in rural areas to increase access to education, training and health care resources that are otherwise limited or unavailable. USDA plans to make $44.5 million available in fiscal year 2021. Of this amount, $10.2 million is intended for projects that provide substance use disorder treatment services in rural areas. Applications are due through grants.gov no later than June 4, 2021.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Letter: On April 6, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Bost (R-IL), Minority Leader Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) led 20 of their House colleagues from the Republican California Congressional Delegation and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer urging the Commission not implement Section 3101(a)(6) of California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018, which could force VA to end agreements offering free, subsidized data to veterans participating in the telehealth app VA Video Connect. View the press release and letter.
State Telehealth Activity
mHealth Intelligence: (4/5) – Lawmakers in Michigan have been debating House Bill 4356, which would allow a health care provider to use telemedicine to perform an eye exam, so long as the standard of care is the same as in-person and the patient has had an in-person eye exam within the previous five years. The bill has passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate. While some say such a policy can help expand access to care, others have said an online eye exam is not as comprehensive to replace an in-person exam.
mHealth Intelligence: (4/6) – The North Dakota House rejected a bill (SB 2179) that would have launched a two-year pilot program to study payment parity for telehealth services. Lawmakers voted 64 to 29 to reject the bill, saying it would be considered price-setting and an insurance mandate to charge the same rate for virtual and in-person care.
New York State: (4/6) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced highlights from the FY2022 Enacted Budget this week, which included a comprehensive package of telehealth reforms to increase access to telehealth services. Included in the package was expanding covered telehealth providers, eliminating obsolete location requirements, and allowing certain unlicensed staff to deliver substance use disorder services.
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
Sykes: (4/6) – Before the pandemic, 56.40 percent of Americans did not believe they could receive the same level of care from telehealth compared to in-person care, but recent polling shows 79.85 percent of Americans now say it is possible. Below are six more notable findings from the survey results, which were released April 6.
In March 2020, 19.5 percent of Americans had a telehealth appointment, whereas 61.05 percent had in March 2021.
In March 2020, 65.6 percent of Americans doubted the care quality provided in telehealth appointments, but in March 2021, 87.82 percent wanted to continue using telehealth services after the pandemic subsides.
In March 2021, 85.52 percent of Americans said telehealth has made it easier to get the care they need.
In March 2021, 64.05 percent of Americans said they would prefer to have parts of their annual physical conducted via telehealth.
In March 2021, 51.64 percent of Americans said telehealth has allowed them to visit their physician more often.
In March 2021, 31.26 percent of Americans said their healthcare costs have decreased since using telehealth.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
Fairfield Sun Times: (4/8) – CVS Health announced it will now offer its Video Visits through MinuteClinics for patients in Montana. This telehealth offering can be used to seek non-emergency, routine health care and are available 24/7 accessed via mobile device or computer.
Nwswise: (4/7) – A new program offered through the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston offers first responders evidence-based mental health counseling via telemedicine from behavioral health specialists. “Telemedicine allows us to meet patients where they are, and tailor our services to suit this population. First responders are often intense and action-oriented, and so is our program. We provide weekly, evidence-based treatment that is problem-focused,” said Ron Acierno, PhD, professor and vice chair for veteran affairs in the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
Politico: (4/5) – An op-ed in Politico urges permanent regulatory changes from DEA and legislative action by Congress for virtual buprenorphine prescribing. To prevent widening gaps in treatment access during the first wave of Covid-19, the federal government took unprecedented and swift action in March 2020 that allowed for technologies like FaceTime and Skype to serve patients via telemedicine in good faith to authors describe. Subsequently, the DEA exercised its enforcement discretion to permit buprenorphine initiation following telephone communication without requiring video technology — as had previously been the case. While these changes were made in response to a new public health emergency, the need to expand telehealth initiation of buprenorphine was long overdue. Telehealth had already been proven effective for managing patients who had already started buprenorphine treatment after an in-person visit – according to the authors.
MPB Online: (4/5) – Like in many states, telehealth has grown significantly in Mississippi since the start of the pandemic. The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Telehealth has helped connect doctors and patients throughout COVID, increasing telehealth visits to 130,000 over the past year. The center received $1 million from the FCC COVID-19 telehealth program, which helped purchase tablets and other technology so patients can monitor their health and communicate with their doctors.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: (4/5) – Amy Crawford-Faucher, MD, led Allegheny Health Network's efforts by overhauling and formalizing the idea of therapeutic interventions, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Like so many physicians and clinicians, Dr. Crawford-Faucher, the medical director for telemedicine at Allegheny Health Network and the vice chair of AHN’s Primary Care Institute, spent last year “completely rethinking and formalizing the way we think about therapeutic interventions” amid a global pandemic that pushed so many to telemedicine seemingly overnight.
Verizon: (4/5) – Verizon Business launches BlueJeans Telehealth, a way for providers and patients to conduct data-driven virtual care conversations. “While the use of telemedicine has been steadily growing for some time now, the pandemic has accelerated telehealth adoption and changed the conversation around what patient care will look like moving forward,” said Tami Erwin, CEO, Verizon Business.
Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) April Public Meeting “Panel Discussion: What States Are Learning from Expanded Telehealth Use” Panelists described the use of telehealth during the pandemic, including key lessons learned; considerations for post-pandemic telehealth policies, including how data are informing the decisions; and challenges to the use and adoption of telehealth in Medicaid and how these states are addressing them. Slides from the session can be viewed here. Panelists included:
Chethan Bachireddy, Chief Medical Officer, Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services
Tracy Johnson, Medicaid Director, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
Sara Salek, Chief Medical Officer, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System