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Connected Care Update

October 13, 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.

Executive Branch, Federal Agency and Congressional Telehealth Activity

Executive Order on Saving Lives Through Increased Support For Mental- and Behavioral-Health Needs: (10/5) – On October 5, President Trump issued an Executive Order establishing a working group to address mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The working group must develop and submit a report that describes how the Administration will improve behavioral health services coordination between stakeholders and agencies to assist individuals in crisis so that they receive effective treatment and recovery services. One approach the working group will explore is the use of telehealth in support groups for people in recovery from substance use disorders and mental health issues. View the EO, fact sheet, and HHS Press release.

Letter to CMS Administrator Verma: (10/9) – On October 9, Reps. Axne (D-IA) and Fitzpatrick (D-PA) led a letter with 32 Representatives to CMS Administrator Verma urging the agency to expand Medicare telehealth coverage of valuable audiology and speech-language pathology during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. View the press release and letter.

Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2020 (H.R. 7663): (10/9) – The Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act, introduced by Reps. Thompson (D-CA), Matsui (D-CA), Johnson (R-OH), Schweikert (R-AZ) and Welch (D-VT) gained eight bipartisan cosponsors this week.The Alliance worked to convene over 200 organizations in a letter to House Telehealth Caucus Representatives Thompson, Welch, Matsui, Schweikert, and Johnson endorsing the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2020 (HR 7663). View the letter and bill cosponsors

HHS Secretary Alex Azar signed a renewal of the Public Health Emergency, extending the PHE (and associated telehealth flexibility) through January 20, 2021. The extension of the Public Health Emergency into January confirms that some provisions in the Physician Fee Schedule, which were declared to continue “through the calendar year in which the PHE ends” will now continue until at least December 31, 2021 These services include:

  • Any service added under the proposed Category 3 designation will remain on the Medicare telehealth services list through at least December 31, 2021.
  • Direct supervision to be provided using real-time, interactive audio, and video technology (already permitted through at least December 31, 2021).
  • CMS is considering under the fee schedule allowing teaching supervision of residents through real-time technology – if approved this would continue until Dec 31, 2021.
  • Please note that while these items would continue through the year in which the PHE ends, those changes which CMS does not have statutory authority over (audio-only, geographic restrictions, originating site) would still end with the PHE termination.

State Telehealth News

Fox 2 Detroit: (10/7) – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced $12.7 million to expand access to high-speed internet and broadband infrastructure across the state. This initiative will help individuals who lack access to broadband to participate in telehealth and other virtual activities that are often inhibited by lack of internet services.

Office of the Governor, New York State (10/8) – Governor Cuomo announced $423,000 in funding through the federal State Opioid Response Grant to expand addiction telehealth services in the State of New York. This is the second wave of funding provided to over 600 authorized telehealth programs through this grant and will help telehealth practices to purchase and install equipment to deliver services across the state.

The National Law Review (10/8) – Ohio legislators introduced a bill to expand telehealth services across the state (H.B. 679). The bill would expand telehealth laws to allow more types of providers to practice, would expand Medicaid, mental health, community addiction, and dentistry telehealth services. The bill would also prevent health plans from imposing cost sharing beyond what an in-person visit for a comparable service would cost.

Brunswick Times-Gazette: (10/8) – Senators Warner (D-VA) and Kaine (D-VA) announced nearly $3 million in funding through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program to expand telemedicine and distance learning in rural areas of Virginia. The funding is intended to help expand access to health care in rural communities.

mHealth Intelligence: (10/8) – The Newton County Commissioners in Missouri approved a project to provide telehealth services to 21 rural area schools in the region. The county will use $385,000 in funds provided through the CARES Act to provide on-demand access to care providers based at a hospital in Neosho and will serve over 8,000 students.

Research, Surveys, and Telehealth News

Check out the Alliance for Connected Care studies and polling website for more resources.  

American Society of Anesthesiologists: (10/5) – A study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2020 annual meeting found that patients who saw a pain medicine specialist via telemedicine saved time and money and were satisfied with their experience. Researchers determined that patients who opted for virtual visits avoided a median roundtrip driving distance of 26 miles per trip, saved a median of $22 on gas and parking per visit, and saved a median of $156 over the course of a median of three visits by avoiding driving time and parking costs. In addition, of the 327 patients who completed surveys, 92% said they were satisfied with their experience.

Healthcare IT News: (10/5) – A community health center in Missouri leveraged funds from the FCC to deploy clinic-based telemedicine kiosks and home-based virtual care units during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health center has also been able to expand its medication-assisted treatment to rural areas.

Healthcare IT News: (10/6) – House Energy & Commerce Committee, Health Subcommittee Chair Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Kelly (D-IL) convened with Dr. Gary Puckrein, president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, to stress the importance of considering the barriers to healthcare people still face throughout the country. Subcommittee Chair Eshoo noted that she's certainly recognized the importance of telehealth over the years, but that the novel coronavirus crisis has moved it "to the front burner."

Amwell Physician and Consumer Survey: (10/6) – Amwell released the results of its annual Physician and Consumer Survey. Telehealth usage is up considerably in 2020, with 22% of consumers and 80% of physicians having a virtual visit this year, up from 8% and 22%, respectively, in 2019. Further, 59% of consumers who've had a video visit had their first one during the pandemic, and 91% of patients reported being "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with the visit. Among providers, the percentage of those who have used telehealth nearly quadrupled since last year, and 84% said they were "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with one or more telehealth platforms.

mHealthIntelligence: (10/6) – A Houston-based health system is using lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to create a primary care platform that enhances both in-person and virtual care. Rakesh Mehta, Memorial Hermann’s director of virtual health, spoke with mHealthIntelligence about the health system’s telehealth journey.

Healthcare IT News: (10/7) – Prior to COVID-19, telemedicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine represented less than 0.1% of total ambulatory care. During the peak of the pandemic, more than 50% of ambulatory care was delivered through telemedicine, reaching a peak of nearly 100,000 encounters in May 2020. In addition, Johns Hopkins expanded their home pulse-oximetry remote-monitoring capability and to-date has experienced only roughly 2 percent of the patients in the program requiring readmission.

Health Affairs: (10/8) – As part of the Higher Health Care Value Post-COVID-19 blog series, Health Affairs examined opportunities to establish a value-based ‘new normal’ for telehealth. The blog examines the policy and research agenda for value-based telehealth and notes the need for aligning stakeholders to inform a value-based approach for telehealth in the U.S.

eHealth Initiative White Paper: (10/8) – The eHealth Initiative released a white paper urging policymakers to support innovation to combat COVID-19. The paper outlines recommendations from the COVID-19 Federal Policy Work Group for building a technology-enabled health care system, and urges policymakers to support licensure portability. 

Upcoming Events

October 14 – America’s Health Insurance Plans, “Findings from Amwell’s 2020 Telehealth Survey of Physicians and Consumers.”

October 21 – Primary Care Collaborative, “Making the Call on the Best Use of Telehealth in Primary Care.”

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