Alliance for Connected Care: Letter of Support for the Benefit Expansion for Workers Act of 2022 (6/30) – The Alliance for Connected Care led a letter
with other leading telehealth groups supporting the Benefit Expansion for Workers Act of 2022 (H.R. 7353), which would allow employers to provide telehealth or other remote care services to employees ineligible for an employer-sponsored group health plan. Until this legislation is enacted, the treatment of telehealth services as an excepted benefit is temporary and will expire once the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends. Passage of this legislation is needed to provide certainty and ensure expanded, long-term access to these services.
House Appropriations Committee: FY 2023 House Appropriations Committee Report (6/29) – On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee released the Report
for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Related Agencies for Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations. The report includes specific instructions with respect to the appropriated amounts. The report includes several telehealth provisions, which would ensure patients can continue to access care through this modality and that data about its usage can be adequately collected to inform future policy. The Alliance published a blog with key telehealth report language, which can be found here. The House Appropriations Committee passed this bill on June 30, and a full House vote is expected in July.
House Energy & Commerce Committee: Legislative Hearing on Investing in Public Health includes Rural Telehealth Access Task Force Act (6/29) – On June 29, the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing on public health legislation to support patients, workers and research. One bill included in the hearing was the Rural Telehealth Access Task Force Act (H.R. 8169), which would establish a task force to determine how to address barriers to the adoption of telehealth technology and access to broadband internet access services in rural areas. The task force would consist of federal officials and would need to make a report to Congress within 18 months. Additional coverage on this hearing can be found through Inside TeleHealth.
House Committee on Oversight and Reform: Hearing with the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (6/28) – On June 27, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing with Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Director Gupta testified on the federal government’s response to the overdose and addiction crisis, including the Biden-Harris Administration’s 2022 National Drug Control Strategy. Director Gupta underscored the need to expand access to treatment services for addiction and substance use disorder, and the steps the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to ensure that people in underserved communities are better able to access care—including through the use of telehealth services. In particular, he noted that the Administration will extend use of telehealth services for substance use disorder treatment. This hearing can be found on C-Span.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: Preliminary Medicaid and CHIP Data Snapshot (6/27) – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an update to the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) COVID-19 data snapshot, which includes data through January 2022. The preliminary data suggests that, during the public health emergency (PHE), services delivered through telehealth per 100,000 beneficiaries were highest among adults ages 19 to 64, while children under age 19 and adults age 65 and older had lower, comparable rates. Behavioral health services delivered through telehealth also increased dramatically during the PHE.
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
Annals of Emergency Medicine: United States 2020 Emergency Medicine Resident Workforce Analysis (7/1) – Emergency medicine residents are disproportionately located in urban areas of the country, which is contributing to an emergency physician "desert" in rural America. The study notes telehealth as a remedy to the shortage of emergency physicians in rural areas. Telehealth has the potential to bring emergency physician care to these rural areas through expansion of telehealth infrastructure and increased uptake of telehealth.
National Academy of Medicine: The Promise of Digital Health: Then, Now, and the Future (6/27) – In this report, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) highlights the tremendous uptake of telehealth and remote patient monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth was able to reduce delays for specialty consultations and primary care. The report provides actionable recommendations to further digital innovation.
mHealth Intelligence: Telehealth Use Remained Steady in 2021 for Medicare Beneficiaries (6/27) – A study
by the University of Michigan's Institute for Healthcare Policy found that telehealth use remained steady, serving as a substitute for in-person care for Medicare beneficiaries and avoiding a spike in visits and costs. In 2021, about one in three Medicare beneficiaries met with a provider virtually at least once. In the second half of 2021, nine percent of monthly Medicare appointments occurred virtually. At the same time, in-person care decreased. The study suggests that telehealth has been used as a substitute for in-person care rather than an expansion of care.
JAMA Network Open: Association Between Telemedicine Use in Nonmetropolitan Counties and Quality of Care Received by Medicare Beneficiaries With Serious Mental Illness (6/27) – A study to assess whether greater telemedicine use in a nonmetropolitan county is associated with quality measures, including use of specialty mental health care and medication adherence, found that greater use of telemental health visits in a county was associated with modest increases in contact with outpatient specialty mental health care professionals and greater likelihood of follow-up after hospitalization. The study suggests that telemental health can improve quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries with serious mental illness.
State Telehealth News and Activity
Washington State Hospital Association: Audio-only telemedicine law changes (6/30) – The Washington State Legislature passed two important law changes for audio-only telemedicine during the 2022 legislative session that build on a 2021 audio-only telemedicine law. This article outlines those changes in more detail to ensure providers are prepared for the changes, which include establishing a patient-provider relationship to seek reimbursement for audio-only telemedicine.
The Nevada Independent: Pilot project equipping rural police with telehealth tools for mental health crises (6/30) – Leaders at the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services believe they will break new ground by equipping police officers with telehealth tools to use when responding to crisis calls. A digital crisis intervention program called Virtual Crisis Care – which is delivered using tablets – is expected to act as a third party during police interactions. Because of gaps in mental health resources in the state, law enforcement is usually the initial contact for people involved in or witnessing a mental breakdown, which this $3.8 million grant is intended to support by connecting police with trained mental health professionals through the tablet to intervene virtually.
UT Health San Antonio: Telehealth enables 8 Texas nurseries to reduce antibiotic use in newborns by 32 percent: (6/29) – Telehealth consultations with a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Texas Science Center at San Antonio reduced the number of newborns receiving antibiotics by 32 percent in eight geographically distant nurseries that serve rural and medically underserved areas of South Texas. The study, which began in 2018, proved to be helpful to distant nurseries once COVID-19 hit as they navigated COVID concerns related to newborns.
Manatt: Telehealth Model Legislation—A Comparison of AMA, FSMB and ULC Model Bills and Guidelines (6/27) – As the US shifts into a new care paradigm where telehealth is more commonly used to deliver care, states are actively reviewing and updating their telehealth policies, laws, and regulations to enable expanded use of telehealth. Multiple organizations have drafted different model bills and guidelines to address out-of-state licensure and coverage and payment of telehealth services. This article outlines the various approaches of the model telehealth bills and guidelines issued by the American Medical Association, Uniform Law Commission, and Federation of State Medical Boards that states can consider when refining their post-pandemic telehealth laws, policies and regulations.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
Health News: Telemedicine improves access to care for cancer patients (6/29) – Many newly diagnosed cancer patients face barriers to care such as lack of access to specialists, limited transportation options, and long wait times for appointments. Telehealth can help cancer patients connect to specialists, track their follow-up care, and reduce the risk of exposure to illnesses.
Healthcare IT News: How remote patient monitoring improves care, saves money for chronic care (6/28) – Many organizations still rely on traditional chronic care models characterized by periodic in-person encounters that can be inconvenient, expensive and insufficiently frequent. Remote patient monitoring allows for patients to share data in a non-clinical setting (like their home) and receive care assessments and recommendations between visits. Healthcare IT News interviewed Sarah Carroll, senior director of the Center for Care Transformation at AVIA, a health care digital transformation technology and services company, to get her insights on technologically enhanced care for chronic conditions.
Healthcare IT News: Improving rural care and health equity with telemedicine (6/27) – Virtual care can either serve to stretch the capabilities of understaffed rural clinics such as by facilitating telehealth appointments between city-based providers and patients in rural areas. Healthcare IT News interviewed the senior vice president of Teledoc Health on the benefits and challenges of advancing telemedicine in rural clinics.
Health Care Exec Intelligence, “Healthcare Strategies Podcast.” As federal authorities increasingly crack down on instances of fraud and abuse within the telehealth arena, providers need to remain vigilant about their use of the care modality as regulations evolve. Jacob Harper, an associate with law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Christa Natoli, executive director of the Center for Telehealth and E-Health Law (CTeL), and Ben Steinhafel, policy director of CTeL, joined Healthcare Strategies to discuss fraud enforcement related to telehealth.