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.
Alliance Support Letter for Delaware HB 21 & HB 141: (4/23) - The Alliance submitted a letter of support for Delaware House Bill 21 and House Bill 141. House Bill 21 would adopt the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact. Under this compact, Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) licensed in a Compact member state may practice in another Compact member state, allowing APRNs to have one multistate license with the ability to practice in all Compact states without having to obtain additional licenses. Its companion bill, House Bill 141, would align the Delaware Board of Nursing statute with the APRN Compact to advance APRN practice through eliminating barriers such as collaborative practice agreements and granting full practice authority in conjunction with licensure to improve access to care for Delaware patients. The full letter can be read here.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program: (4/15) – The FCC opened the application window for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program on Thursday, April 29. Applications are due by 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.
House Ways & Means Committee, Health Subcommittee: (4/28) – The House Ways & Means Committee, Health Subcommittee held a hearing last week to explore with key witnesses how current pandemic-induced telehealth flexibilities have impacted care delivery, utilization, and the impact on health care spending. The hearing also explored the impact of telehealth on reducing barriers to health care access for individuals in rural and underserved communities and ongoing challenges to ensure telehealth services are delivered equitably and in the correct clinical settings. Finally, the hearing explored the implications of various proposals to permanently expand telehealth payments in the Medicare program. Members largely focused on solutions to ensure equity in telehealth – including by increasing access to broadband, permitting audio-only telehealth and the benefit of being able to include a culturally competent and/or bilingual provider. Members discussed concerns around fraud, waste and abuse, in particular citing lack of robust data on the impact of telehealth flexibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also discussion of cost and payment for telehealth. Members also highlighted several benefits of telehealth for chronic disease patients such as those with diabetes or ALS. Subcommittee Chair Doggett announced his intention to introduce new legislation implementing the MedPAC telehealth recommendation to extend existing telehealth waivers and that he would include an in-person visit requirement to prevent some types of fraud. View the recording and witness testimonies here.
Senate HELP Committee, Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Using Lessons Learned to Address Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: (4/28) – The Senate HELP Committee held a full Committee hearing last week on how to help the nation overcome deepening mental health and substance use problems that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic and called for expanding telehealth. Health committee ranking member Burr (R-NC) made a plea for focusing on telehealth as a remedy. Experts testified in support of permanent changes to telehealth coverage, efforts to support growing workforce needs and looser prescriber restrictions on medications to treat substance use disorders. View the recording and witness testimonies here. Also read additional coverage from CQ.
State Telehealth Legislation –
mHealth Intelligence: (4/29) - Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 43, legislation that would permanently expand telehealth coverage and access flexibilities enacted during the pandemic. The bill would eliminate geographic and site restrictions to telehealth delivery and an in-person visit requirement before using connected health channels for certain services, among other provisions.
Kansas Office of the Governor: (4/29)- Kansas Governor Kelly encouraged providers in the state to apply for the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Governor Kelly applauded this partnership, as telehealth has helped improve access to quality, affordable health care in the state throughout the pandemic.
WHYY: (4/29) – The Delaware House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill to allow patients to continue receiving telehealth services post-pandemic. The Telehealth Access Preservation and Modernization Act would eliminate the requirement that patients have at least one in-person appointment before having a telehealth visit, and would enter Delaware into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, among other provisions.
The Free Press: (4/27) – The Minnesota Senate passed a bill to expand the Minnesota Telehealth Act this week, and the House passed another omnibus bill including similar provisions. The bill would raise reimbursement rates for video and audio visits and would expand the state’s definition of telehealth to include more medical services. The bill also codifies several pandemic-related telehealth measures into law.
mHealth Intelligence: (4/23) – Florida lawmakers approved two bills that would allow school systems to use telehealth to connect behavioral health counselors to students in crisis situations. Senate Bill 590 and House Bill 7035 would update the state’s guidelines, including using telehealth to connect those students with counselors in mobile response teams.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
mHealth Intelligence: (4/30) – The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) unveiled AHIMA dHealth. The site offers resources for healthcare providers on digital health products, including privacy and data security practices and policies, and an assessment tool designed to help vendors meet AHIMA standards.
Health Payer Intelligence: (4/30) – UnitedHealthcare announced several enhancements to its integrated care benefit and specialty benefit approach for employer-sponsored health plans that are expected to simplify the member experience and increase value. The integrated health care benefit program bundles medical and specialty benefits such as vision, dental, and disability. With enhanced chronic condition identification and management, as well as increased patient engagement in clinical care, the plan is expected to improve employee health outcomes.
Fierce Healthcare: (4/28) – Amwell launched a new telehealth platform; Converge, that enables all of the company's products, programs, modules and devices, as well as applications from third parties, to be available in one place with a single code base, the company said. “Digital distribution of care is here,” said Roy Schoenberg, M.D., president and co-CEO at Amwell in a statement. “Telehealth morphed, almost overnight, from a promising technology to an existential platform in the operation of healthcare—alongside EHRs, claim systems and e-prescribing. We are witnessing a new consensus that the future care of any one patient will inevitably involve a mix of physical, digital and asynchronous/AI-based care."
Health Payer Intelligence: (4/28) – Humana announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire the rest of the Kindred at Home program as part of its home healthcare expansion. “We continue to invest in assets that allow Humana to better manage the holistic needs of our members and patients by expanding care in the home, including primary care, telehealth, and emergency room care, while also addressing social determinants of health,” said Bruce Broussard, president and chief executive officer at Humana.
Alliance for Connected Care, “Telehealth Summit for Health Systems.” The Alliance for Connected Care held its virtual Telehealth Summit for Health Systems April 22 & 23. Participants heard from federal policymakers and executives at several health systems on a variety of issues related to virtual care, including improving access across the digital and social divide, consumer engagement in virtual care, post-pandemic licensure portability, and hardwiring virtual care transformation. Slides from the opening presentation, entitled “A Pivotal Moment for Telehealth & RPM Policy: A Look Ahead to 2021,” are now available on the website. A recording of the opening sessions with our guest speakers from the White House and Congress can also be found here.