Your organization is invited to sign this letter
urging Congress to support federal funding for Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) through Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) FY2023 appropriations. This increase in funding would provide a critical boost to the TRCs, which have experienced an 800 percent increase in demand for telehealth assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been level-funded since 2006. According to the TRCs, they need at least $28 million in funding in FY23 to ensure that each TRC (regional and national) can receive at least $2 million. This request is particularly relevant for anyone who plans to use the TRC’s State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies Report, which the Alliance featured last week.
The deadline to sign on is 2:00 pm ET on Tuesday, May 31
Health Resources & Services Administration: HRSA Holds first National Telehealth Conference (5/17) – HRSA held its first National Telehealth Conference this week, which brought together government officials, health care providers, thought leaders, telehealth leaders and more to determine how best practices learned through the expansion of telehealth throughout the pandemic could be integrated into the health care system moving forward. Panelists discussed a variety of topics throughout the day, including achieving health equity through increased access and adoption of telehealth, the role of telehealth as a tool to improve the quality of care for patients, the pathway to licensure reform in the wake of the pandemic, tele-behavioral health as a model and example of the success of integrating telehealth during the pandemic and beyond, and more. Additional coverage on the conference can be found at mHealth Intelligence and Inside Health Policy.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: National Health Statistics Report Shows Telemedicine Use in Children Age 0-17 (5/10) – The CDC found that, in the second half of 2020, only 14.1 percent of children used telehealth due to the pandemic, but use was higher among those with asthma, a developmental condition, or a disability. In total, about 12.6 million children, or 17.5 percent, used telehealth in the past 12 months, which included a period before the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 10.2 million children, or 14.1 percent, used telehealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 23.5 percent of children with asthma used telehealth because of the pandemic compared with 13.6 percent of those without asthma. Similarly, 32.5 percent and 29.8 percent of children with a current developmental condition and a disability, respectively, used telemedicine due to the pandemic.
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
Healio News: 92% of allergy/immunology practices now use telehealth (5/18) – According to a survey from the AMA and American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, the use of telehealth expanded in allergy and immunology care during the pandemic with 92 percent of practices providing such services. Providers reported using telehealth for: treatment or therapy (83 percent); screening, assessments or diagnosis (78 percent); follow-up care including chronic care and post-hospitalization (76 percent); continuous monitoring (58 percent); and intake or triage (42 percent).
Fierce Healthcare: Rural patients have a digital connection but want a human one, too (5/17) - A new report
from Phreesia Life Sciences surveyed adult patients in urban/suburban, and rural areas to get a better understanding of how rural versus urban patients engage with the internet when it comes to health information. The study found there was only a one percent difference in access to smartphones and data plans among rural patients compared to their urban counterparts, however gaps widen when those phones are used for health information. For urban patients, 68 percent reported using the internet to search for health information, compared to 61 percent in rural areas. The study suggests that it’s not accessibility that keeps rural patients from embracing digital health care, but attitudes and understanding of these tools.
News Wise: CHOP Researchers Affirm Effectiveness of Telehealth for Majority of Child Neurology Visits (5/17) – Researchers from the Epilepsy Neurogenetics Initiative (ENGIN) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that the majority of child neurology visits can be effectively conducted via telemedicine, however younger children and those with neuromuscular disorders tend to require in-person evaluations. These findings support the fact that telemedicine can continue to help patients beyond the COVID-19 pandemic that necessitated it and reaffirmed previous findings that telemedicine is effective for a large majority of child neurology visits.
Rock Health: Startup innovation for underserved groups: 2021 digital health consumer adoption insights (5/16) – Rock Health released its 2021 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey, which sheds light on where digital health solutions are gaining traction across different demographic groups and where gaps still remain. The survey found that digital health adoption gaps persisted in rural communities, with respondents living in rural areas reporting lower rates of live video telemedicine use. Digital health players are helping clinicians to overcome infrastructure barriers remaining for rural care delivery, such as by designing virtual care and remote monitoring platforms to rely on cellular networks which are more widely available than broadband. The survey also found that Medicaid beneficiaries reported using telemedicine modalities beyond live video at slightly higher rates, including live phone telemedicine (50 percent) and text messaging with a clinician (32 percent).
Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare:The impact of telehealth applications on pregnancy outcomes and costs in high-risk pregnancy (5/16) – This study, which aimed to examine the impact of telehealth applications on pregnancy outcomes and costs in high-risk pregnancies, found that telehealth can be safe and effective when it comes to managing high-risk pregnancies. The researchers found that due to COVID-19, the use of telehealth apps in the monitoring and care of high-risk pregnancies has increased substantially in antenatal health services. About 22 percent of pregnancies are considered high-risk due to chronic health problems, infections, complications, or other issues. Telehealth interventions were found to have a positive impact on maternal and neonatal health, as well as on costs, and that telehealth is a safe technique to work with in the management of high-risk pregnancies.
State Telehealth News and Activity
Inside TeleHealth: Ohio Board Issues Telehealth Guidance for Vision Care Providers (5/19) – The Ohio Vision Professionals Board recently released guidance
emphasizing that vision care provided virtually should be held to the same standard as care provided in person. The move comes as vision practitioners increasingly see a role for telehealth services amid the pandemic. The guidance also says providers in the state that use telehealth for vision care should meet the same ethical and privacy standards applied to in-person care. Providers are required to assess a patient’s ability to benefit from telehealth, limit telehealth visits to patients with whom they already have relationships, and be licensed in Ohio if they are located in another state.
Foley & Lardner: Alabama Enacts New Telemedicine Law (5/16) – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed Senate Bill 272 into law, which sets telemedicine practice standards and abolishes Alabama’s previous “special purpose license” that allowed physicians licensed in other states to practice across state lines into Alabama. The law will take effect on July 11, 2022. The bill states that a physician-patient relationship may be formed via telehealth without a prior in-person exam, however if a physician provides a telehealth medical service more than four times in a 12-month period to the same patient for the same condition without resolution, the physician must see the patient in-person within 12 months or refer them to another physician.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting: Mississippians now have permanent access to telehealth (5/16) – Senate Bill 2738 was recently signed into law in Mississippi, which permanently allows residents to connect with doctors remotely. The law prevents insurance providers from forcing patients to use an in-house telemedicine program, and some form of contact is necessary prior to an audio-only telehealth visit. The law is expected to help expand access to care in the state, particularly in rural areas.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
JDSupra: OIG Advisory Opinion 22-08 Permits Federally Qualified Health Center to Provider Smartphones to Patients to Promote Access to Telehealth and Social Isolation Benefits. The HHS Office of the Inspector General determined that the FQHC smartphone program, funded by a FCC grant and from a local charity did fall within appropriate exceptions to beneficiary inducement requirements under civil monetary penalty and anti-kickback law.
American Medical Association: How COVID-19 telemonitoring sets model for other acute conditions (5/20) – A telemedicine program in Iowa designed to closely monitor COVID-19 patients at home during their acute illness was an effective, cost-efficient and sustainable way to manage the disease and take pressure off of hospitals. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics (UIHC) physicians and care teams turned to a telehealth program early in the pandemic that delivered a blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter, contact information to report worsening symptoms, instructions for home isolation and vital signs and symptoms log sheets to a COVID patient’s door. The patient could take their own vitals while a nurse followed up to see how they were fairing, allowing as many as possible to recover without hospital care while getting those who started to worsen to the hospital before intensive care was required.
Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Leans Into Telehealth to Reduce Costs, Meet Patient Needs
(5/19) - UnitedHealth Group Inc. has built telehealth into strategies the company’s chief executive officer Andrew Witty says are needed to reduce wasteful spending and meet the chronic need for more behavioral health care nationally. The plan seeks to better coordinate care to get better results, more efficiently. Use of telehealth increased in the pandemic, as people found it harder to visit clinics, Witty said at the WSJ Future of Everything Festival. Witty noted that telehealth visits for behavioral health care are particularly popular and expand access to help address the lack of behavioral health providers nationwide.
PR Underground: Pediatric Specialty Care Access Expanding Through New Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital Telehealth Program in Mini-Cassia (5/18) – Alliance Member Intermountain Healthcare’s Intermountain Cassia Regional Hospital is launching Pediatric TeleHealth Consults to allow for 24/7 access to specialists at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. The program uses video to connect doctors and nurses at Primary Children’s with Cassia Regional caregivers and patients, making it possible for doctors in the emergency room to have instant access to pediatric trauma and critical care specialists who can help diagnose complex cases.
MedCity News: ‘No Other Option’: Telehealth could be rural healthcare’s savior (5/17) – Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), said that telehealth holds significant potential to save the future of rural health care, stating “there is no future of rural healthcare without telehealth.” NRHA has found that, as rural providers implement telehealth services, many are struggling to address key questions about the patients they serve, including around broadband access, technology access, and digital literacy. Operating with the knowledge that rural communities will not be able to train enough clinicians to adequately provide for their populations, Morgan said rural providers must turn to telehealth to ensure access to care.
Previous Events, Podcasts, and Videos
Health Affairs, “Podcast: Caitlin Hicks on Telemedicine and Care Inequities.” When medical offices shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and people were encouraged or required to avoid public spaces, there was a dramatic and rapid increase in the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine has the potential to open up access to care, particularly to people who are geographically isolated or have mobility limitations, but it can also exacerbate existing inequities given its relevance upon broadband internet access and other technologies. Caitlin Hicks from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine joins A Health Podyssey to discuss a recent study
on telemedicine’s impact on access to care for Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic.