Sign-on Letter Opportunity: Urge Congress to Reinstate CARES Act Provision Allowing People with HDHP-HSAs to Continue Receiving Pre-Deductible Coverage for Telehealth (1/7) - The Alliance for Connected Care seeks your endorsement of this joint letter urging Congress to reinstate the virtual care provisions enacted in the CARES Act that enabled employers and health plans to provide covered telehealth services to individuals with a high-deductible health plan coupled with a health savings account (HDHP-HSA) before their deductible is met. This policy is not tied to the public health emergency, and therefore expired on December 31, 2021. Please join us in urging Congressional action on reinstating this provision as part of the upcoming February appropriations by filling out this form by Thursday, January 13.
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: Request for Information on Strengthening Community Health Through Technology (1/5) – The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published a request for information (RFI) on Strengthening Community Health Through Technology. The OSTP seeks input from community health stakeholders, technology developers, and other interested parties about how digital health technologies are used, or could be used in the future, to transform community health, individual wellness, and health equity. Specifically, OSTP seeks information about: Successful models of strengthening community health through digital health technologies within the United States and abroad; barriers to uptake; trends from the COVID-19 pandemic; how user experience is measured; need for tools and training; ideas for potential government action; and effects on health equity. The deadline to submit comments is February 28, 2022.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Disease Prevention: Pathways to Prevention Program – Improving Rural Health through Telehealth-Guided Provider-to-Provider Communication (1/3) – The Office of Disease Prevention at the NIH invites public comments on the draft report from the recent Pathways to Prevention (P2P) Workshop, entitled “Improving Rural Health Through Telehealth-Guided Provider-to-Provider Communication.” Speakers at this workshop assessed the scientific evidence to better understand what is and is not known about the effectiveness of telehealth-guided provider-to-provider communication to improve health outcomes in rural settings by addressing various key questions outlined in this resource. The report summarizes the workshop discussions and identifies future research priorities. Comments are due by February 4, 2022.
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
mHealth Intelligence: Lack of mHealth Technologies Disrupt Workflows for Hospitalists (1/7) – According to a study published in JMIR Human Factors, user-centered mHealth technology and applications could help reduce burden and increase the efficiency of workflows for hospitalists. Researchers interviewed 12 hospitalists, who collectively identified chart reviews, orders, and documentation as the most frequent, redundant and difficult tasks in their workflows. Intake, discharge and rounding workflows were characterized as difficult and inefficient, stemming from a lack of access to electronic health records at the bedside. Participants suggested that mobile apps designed to improve team communications would be most beneficial to improve efficiency in their workflows.
Healio: Studies offer insight into telehealth availability, patient use for cancer management (1/5) – Data from two studies revealed disparities in telehealth availability and use among patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to presenters during the virtual American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress. One study found that 85.2 percent of hospitals reported having telehealth capacity for patients with breast cancer. Factors associated with telehealth use included facility type, teaching hospital status, geographic location, and hospital size. Factors not associated with telehealth availability included for-profit vs. non-profit status and population base in a center’s location. Researchers noted the importance of recognizing patient preferences for how they’d like to interact with the health care system as incredibly important.
mHealth intelligence: Female, Behavioral Health Physicians Led Early Telehealth Adoption (1/5) – A study found that female, primary care, and behavioral health physicians were more likely to adopt virtual care early in the pandemic compared to male and surgical specialty physicians. Primary care and behavioral health specialists were more likely to be early adopters compared to other specialty physicians. About 64 percent of primary care physicians and 41 percent of behavioral health physicians adopted virtual care during the first week of the public health emergency. Additionally, nearly 10 percent and 30 percent of primary care and behavioral health physicians, respectively, had adopted telehealth before the pandemic. Those who transitioned earlier towards telehealth were more perceptive towards patient-centered communication.
mHealth Intelligence: Rural Cancer Survivors Report Low Telehealth Availability, Internet Access
(1/4) – A study
published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found a wide digital divide among Medicare cancer survivors, with urban survivors being more likely to use telehealth as compared with their rural counterparts. The study found that while 62 percent of cancer survivors covered by Medicare reported that their usual practitioner provided telehealth services, rural survivors reported lower telehealth availability at 53 percent, as compared to 63 percent for those who lived in urban areas. Rural cancer survivors were less likely to own technology required for a telehealth visit, and were also less likely to have internet access compared to patients living in urban areas.
HealthDay News: Telemedicine as Good as In-Person for Many Health Conditions: Review (1/3) – A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found replacing office visits with video checkups delivered results that were just as effective for patients being treated for conditions like diabetes, respiratory illnesses, chronic pain, heart problems and neurological disorders. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the use of video teleconferencing in health care. Researchers concluded that video telemedicine generally provided care as good as in-person care, and sometimes was even better.
Modern Healthcare: U.S. saw significant drop in telehealth use last year after rapid growth in 2020 (1/3) – A recent analysis found that telehealth utilization declined by an average of 40.3 percent a month last year compared with 2020, largely due to patients returning to physician offices for in-person care in 2021. A review
by Trilliant Health found that South Dakota saw the largest drop in utilization with 60.2 percent less telehealth usage in 2021, and the smallest declines occurred in New Mexico, Oregon, and Arizona.
State Telehealth News and Activity
Electronic Health Reporter: Study Rates Every State’s Telehealth Laws For Patient Access (1/6) – A new joint report from Reason Foundation, Cicero Institute and Pioneer Institute rated every state’s telehealth laws for patient access and ease of providing virtual care, using eight key factors: in-person requirements, modality neutrality, barriers to telehealth across state lines, providers, nurse practitioners’ independent practice, coverage mandate, and payment mandate. Millions of Americans tried telehealth for the first-time last year as federal officials and governors temporarily lifted restrictions that limited patient access to virtual care. But many of these restrictions on practices like speaking with doctors across state lines, recording voice messages with care instructions, and mandating insurance coverage have been reinstated. Key findings from the report include:
Barriers to telehealth across state lines: Arizona, Florida and Indiana have clear registration or licensing processes for out-of-state health care providers to see patients across state lines. Additionally, 13 states have a clear registration or licensing process but it only applies to physicians, or certain kinds of providers, or only for surrounding states. Finally, 34 states have clear barriers to telehealth across state lines.
Several of the states hardest hit by the pandemic have the most restrictive telehealth laws: States like New York, California, and Connecticut, for example, are not part of interstate licensing compacts and have coverage parity mandates that offer no flexibility between insurers and providers.
Compacts: 26 states are members of at least the Nurse Licensure Compact and Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, and 16 states are members of at least one. Eight states are not members of either compact.
Payment Parity: Twenty-two states have no mandate for insurers to pay the same rate for telehealth services as in-person services, while 22 states have a payment mandate for all services to be paid the same rate for telehealth and in-person.
State of Reform: Gov. Hogan issues emergency health orders (1/5) – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a number of emergency orders this week to address the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. In addition to declaring a state of emergency, Governor Hogan issued an order calling for holds on nursing license expirations and interstate health care license reciprocity. The order states that any person who holds a valid, unexpired license as a health care practitioner in another state may engage in health care activities authorized under their license at a health care facility in Maryland without obtaining a license or practice letter from the applicable Maryland licensing agency or board.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Governor Hochul $10 Billion Healthcare Plan With Intent to Join Physician and Nurse Interstate Compacts (1/5) – New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a $10 billion multi-year investment in health care as part of the 2022 State of the State, aimed at rebuilding and growing the health care workforce and strengthening the health care system. The plan will support wages and bonuses for health care workers and will invest in the health care workforce development pipeline to meet the current and increasing demand for medical professionals. Governor Hochul also plans to propose legislation for New York to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and Nurse Licensure Compact, to allow out-of-state physicians and nurses to more quickly provide telehealth or in-person care to patients in the state.
Florida Politics: Legislation allowing Florida to join an interstate compact for psychologists gets bipartisan support (1/5) – Bipartisan members of the Florida legislature have introduced bills (SB 1370/HB 953) that would authorize the state to join the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT). This comes as there is increasing efforts by lawmakers to increase access to mental health services by expanding the use of telepsychology and allowing out-of-state psychologists to provide services to patients for a limited time. The bill sponsors attest that this would help expand access to mental health services, particularly for college students.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
Fierce Healthcare: Magellan Healthcare, NeuroFlow team up on digital mental health program for members
(1/6) – Magellan Healthcare and NeuroFlow partnered to launch a digital emotional well-being program accessible to all Magellan members. The program launched at the start of 2022 and aims to be a self-help tool to enable members to take charge of their own mental health and build confidence and stress-management skills. NeuroFlow supplies the technology via a member-facing platform which can be accessed via phone app or web browser.
Pew Charitable Trusts: Telehealth Can Lower Barriers to Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
(1/6) – Pew Charitable Trusts recently interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Samuels, an emergency medicine physician and assistant professor at Alpert Medical School of Brown University, on her work with Rhode Island’s Buprenorphine Hotline. This 24-hour phone service has allowed Dr. Samuels to connect to people with opioid use disorders (OUD) and prescribe buprenorphine without conducting an in-person examination. The transcript of the interview is provided in this article, which also discusses Dr. Samuel’s founding of the Buprenorphine Telehealth Consortium, a group of leading health professionals focused on urging lawmakers to codify COVID-era telehealth measures around OUD.
STAT: Chatbots, surveys, and texts: Telehealth companies cut costs by reimaging the front desk
(1/5) – Many telehealth companies have begun to leverage chatbots, online questionnaires, and automated follow-ups to triage patients and trim costs as they compete in a crowded virtual care market. The use of automated tools for such companies depends on whether they provide care in real time through video visits, or if physicians review video uploads from patients as their schedule allows. Automation and AI-aided software can help in both instances, and can help figure out what a patient needs and from whom.
Advisory Board: Is the pandemic-era telehealth boom reversing? (1/5) – For most of 2020, telehealth was the only option for receiving and delivering care. As in-person care opened back up and people were ready to return to in-person interactions, it’s natural that some of those telehealth visits would convert to in-person visits. But it’s important to acknowledge that telehealth volumes are still dramatically higher than anything experienced before COVID-19, even after the decline in 2021. This suggests that telehealth is here to stay in some capacity.