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This Week in Connected Care:
Recent Developments and Clips

Week Ending April 24, 2020

The Alliance for Connected Care continues to maintain and update a COVID-19 website tracking guidance from federal agencies on telehealth and remote patient monitoring including a state emergency waiver tracking chart. 

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Alliance News

The Alliance launched a revamped COVID-19 landing page which includes links to federal and state policy and guidance during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Our pages now include substantive background information and telehealth 101 for lay audiences.

HHS and HRSA launched (4/22) – which is a comprehensive federal telehealth resource site. It also links out to a variety of other resources, including the Alliance for Connected Care website.

Executive Director Krista Drobac (4/22) – was quoted in a Kaiser Health News article on the increased potential for fraud due to relaxed guardrails around telemedicine. “A crisis always spawns fraudsters,” said Krista Drobac. She said the alliance hopes “to show the value of telehealth” and help win wide acceptance of virtual visits to doctors.

Alliance Calls for More Broadband Funding (4/22) – The Alliance sent a letter to Chair Eshoo and Rep. Young endorsing H.R.6474 – the Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act. This legislation would significantly expand funding for the Federal Communications Commission to support healthcare broadband deployment in response to COVID–19.

    Federal Agency Telehealth Activity / Guidance

    CMS: (4/24) – CMS issued updated information related to its previous April 21 guidance for Medicare Advantage Organizations. The new guidance states that MAOs may provide smartphones and/or tablets as a supplemental benefit for primarily health related purposes, including in order to aid in the use of telehealth or remote access technology services in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

    FCC: (4/23) – The FCC approved an additional six funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has funded 17 health care providers in 10 states for a total of $9.5 million in funding.

    FDA: (4/23) – FDA issued guidance on non-invasive fetal and maternal monitoring used to support patient monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic. FDA indicated that increasing the availability of these devices may increase access to important prenatal data without the need for in-clinic visits and facilitate patient management while reducing the need for in-person visits.

    FDA: (4/23) – FDA issued guidance to help increase the availability of mobile and portable imaging systems may increase options to image patients inside and outside of healthcare facilities, which could help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

    HHS OIG: (4/23) – HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) released FAQs on the application of OIG’s administrative enforcement authorities during the PHE. Per the FAQ, OIG states that free access to a hospital’s telehealth platform by physicians on its medical staff would present a low risk of fraud and abuse and could improve beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services.

    HHS: (4/22) – Surgeon General Adams delivered a message calling on all healthcare providers to integrate telemedicine into their practice and announced the launch of the new website.

    CMS: (4/21) – CMS issued updated guidance to Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs), Part D sponsors and Medicare-Medicaid plans on flexibilities during COVID-19, which mentions flexibility with face-to-face requirements for special needs plans, and others.

    VA: (4/20) – VA announced that Veterans using VA Video Connect will no longer pay for data while using video telehealth technology to connect and meet with their VA health care teams.

    Find older COVID-19 Telehealth Guidance on our regularly updated website.

      State Activity

      To date, fifty states, including D.C. have waived – to varying extents – state licensure laws in order to facilitate cross-border care, sometimes explicitly including telehealth. In addition, several states have requested flexibility to incent greater use of telehealth through Medicaid Section 1135 Waivers. The Alliance for Connected Care is tracking these developments on our website.

          News and Reports

          STAT News: (4/19) – Doctors are re-evaluating their pre-conceived notions about telehealth and discovering telehealth’s silver linings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

          Health Affairs: (4/20) – This article explores strategies to maximize the current health workforce and outlines telehealth and flexibility around licensing requirements offering great potential for increasing workforce capacity.

          The Hill: (4/20) – An opinion piece suggesting telehealth should play an important role for healthcare post the COVID-19 public health emergency.

          HIT Consultant: (4/20) – Redox, a Wisconsin-based interoperability platform for health data exchange launched the Redox Rapid Deployment Model for Telehealth, which helps telehealth vendors to go-live and integrate with healthcare organizations in less than two weeks. The process typically takes between 16 to 18 weeks.

          mHealthIntelligence: (4/20) – CMS relaxed rules to allow hospice care providers to receive reimbursement for telehealth sessions to cover routine home care, as well as for patient recertification for the Medicare hospice benefit. However, they did not relax rules for Service Intensity Add-on payments, which might cause problems for hospice care providers.

          mHealthIntelligence: (4/20) – The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence released guidance and best practices for providers using connected health platforms to treat children living with autism.

          Amwell: (4/21) – Amwell introduced Amwell Private Practice, a new solution designed to help physician practices with less than 100 providers to deploy telehealth in a simple, secure and cost-effective way.

          NEJM Catalyst: (4/21) – In just two weeks, Stanford Primary Care scaled their video visit program in two Express Care urgent care centers to cover more than 80 percent of clinic visits.

          Bipartisan Policy Center: (4/21) – BPC’s rural health taskforce released policy recommendations to address America’s rural health care crisis. Among the recommendations is to expanding telehealth services to include non-face-to-face services and include the home in the list of authorized originating sites for telehealth in rural areas.

          Healthcare Finance News: (4/21) – COVID-19 may permanently change the telehealth landscape from reimbursement to utilization. While lasting change will require Congress to act, COVID-19 may have created the justification to do so.

          Fierce Healthcare: (4/21) – A survey finds that all 20 accountable care organizations (ACOs) surveyed are implementing telemedicine solutions, with 16 percent relying on AI and automation to identify and reach high-risk patients.

          Fierce Healthcare: (4/23) – Avalere released analysis  this week outlining that 191 physician procedure codes are now billable via telehealth as a result of relaxed flexibilities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis highlights that there has not been expansion in OB/GYN and Dermatology codes.

          Fierce Healthcare: (4/23) – A survey of 800 physicians finds that nearly half (48%) are using telemedicine, up from just 18 percent in 2018.

          mHealthIntelligence: (4/24) – New York state officials announced that they are partnering with a home healthcare services provider to extend telehealth services to public housing residents.

          Upcoming Events 

          April 27 – National Association of County and City Health Officials, “Hill Briefing on COVID-19 and Addiction: Local Communities Respond.” Webinar

          April 28 – Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center, “Culture of Telemedicine.” Webinar

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