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.
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.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program: (4/15) – The FCC announced the application window for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program will open on Thursday, April 29 and run through Thursday, May 6. The program received roughly $250 million in additional funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The Report and Order establishes a clear way to rate applications that takes into consideration objective factors about the health care provider and the area it serves. Round 2 will also distribute funding to each state, territory, and the District of Columbia and will have an application filing window so all applicants are on equal footing during the review. View the press release and report and order.
State Telehealth Activity
The Baltimore Sun: (4/16) – The Maryland General Assembly is highlighting a “tremendous” year for health care legislation following the end of its 2021 legislative session. Telehealth expansion was among the health care areas addressed during the session, including the passage of the Preserve Telehealth Access Act of 2021 (HB 123/SB 3), which expands the definition of telehealth and the coverage and reimbursement requirements for such health care services. Telehealth coverage now includes audio-only telephone visits and remote patient monitoring services, among other aspects. Governor Hogan signed this bill into law, among 65 others, within 12 hours of the session coming to a close.
WHYY: (4/16) – Delaware lawmakers are considering whether to make virtual health appointments a permanent option following the public health emergency. Current emergency orders in the state to allow insurance to cover telehealth appointments are set to expire in June. State Rep. David Bentz introduced a bill called the Telehealth Access Preservation and Modernization Act (HB 160), which would eliminate the requirement that patients have at least one in-person appointment prior to a telehealth visit, and would allow for audio-only telehealth visits to ensure access to those without internet services. Additionally, this bill would enter the state into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.
Platte Institute: (4/15) – The Nebraska legislature unanimously passed LB400, a bill that would make pandemic emergency changes to telehealth regulations permanent. Prior to the pandemic, patients had to access telehealth services at a hospital or clinic, which was modified during the pandemic to ensure patients could access telehealth services from their home. The emergency order also waived a requirement for patients to provide written consent prior to a telehealth visit, allowing verbal consent to be given for an initial visit. This bill will permanently lift these barriers to telehealth to ensure better access to care for patients in the state.
Austin American-Statesman: (4/14) – The Texas House gave initial approval this week to the bipartisan House Bill 4, which would expand telehealth after the pandemic. The bill would make permanent certain emergency waivers enacted in the state during the public health emergency by expanding virtual care to the Medicaid population and other public benefits program recipients and reimbursing providers for such services. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission would implement these measures no later than January 1.
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition: (4/11) – The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition published its Telehealth Impact: Patient Survey Analysis study. The survey characterizes the experience and attitudes of patients almost one year into the pandemic and is meant to serve as a guide for medical practices, payors, and government regulators as they continue to invest in the digital healthcare system moving forward. The study found strong patient support for telehealth, including that 78 percent felt their health concern could be addressed via telehealth, 76 percent said telehealth removed transportation as a barrier, and 83 percent felt patient-physician communication was strong.
Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners: (4/7) – A systematic review was performed to determine the impact of telemedicine and community health worker (CHW) interventions for improving A1c levels and self-management behaviors among underserved older adults with diabetes mellitus. The review found that diabetes self-management education (DSME) administered through telemedicine and CHW interventions were effective for improving A1C levels, self-care adherence, and patient and provider satisfaction among adults aged ≥50 years. The authors note that common barriers to diabetes care include inadequate resources, lack of transportation, inconsistent means of communications, social isolation, and low motivation. Community health workers and telemedicine were effective in improving disease management and optimizing care coordination within the vulnerable adult populations.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
Becker’s Hospital Review: (4/16) – Researchers at Pennsylvania State University created a prototype of a wireless, wearable transmitter that could be used for both health monitoring and clinical treatments. The transmitter, which can send wireless data at a range of almost 300 feet, can be easily integrated with numerous computer chips or sensors. The device has the potential to be applied in remote patient monitoring and healthcare treatment use cases.
Healthcare IT News: (4/14) – Remote patient monitoring helped Baptist Health achieve zero readmissions with COVID-19 patients. "Not only did Current Health's remote healthcare solution allow us to extend our reach into the patient home, but it also provided comfort and security for both our patients and providers during an otherwise uncertain time," said Dr. Brett Oliver, chief medical information officer at Baptist Health.
mHealth Intelligence: (4/14) – The Mayo Clinic launched the Remote Diagnostic and Management Platform (RDMP), which helps healthcare providers improve their use of connected health devices in remote patient monitoring and other mobile health programs.
High Plains Public Radio: (4/13) – Hospitals and physicians in Kansas are urging state lawmakers to require insurance plans to continue reimbursement for telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services after the public health emergency ends. Payers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas expect to stop paying in-person rates for remote care beginning in late June. Health systems are advocating for insurers to keep current payment policies to ensure hospitals can continue to subsidize telemedicine when it is in high demand. The University of Kansas Health System, for example, continues to see at least 16,500 telemedicine visits per month, showing the persisting demand for such services.
Intermountain Healthcare: (4/12) – Alliance Member Intermountain signed an agreement to acquire Classic Air Medical, a leading air medical transport company to expand support of physicians, clinics, and hospitals across the region through additional coordination with telehealth and digital care.
House Appropriations Committee, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, “FY 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services.” Telehealth was mentioned extensively in both hearings last week. HHS Secretary Becerra remarked on the benefits of telehealth, saying “Telehealth has been a godsend and has helped Americans access more quality care.”
Psych Congress, “Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.” Dr. Tami Mark, Director of Behavioral Health Financing and Quality Improvement at RTI International presented a study at the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on the use of telehealth to increase access to addiction treatment in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. From June to July of 2020, 97% of specialty substance use disorder providers in California had increased their used of telehealth for outpatient services and 77% had for group counseling, but only 17% did for buprenorphine prescriptions and 16% for medication management. Dr. Mark noted that “The genie is out of the bottle. Telehealth will be used much more frequently for SUD treatment than it was pre-pandemic.