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Last Week in Connected Care

Week Ending June 26, 2020

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.

 - Request for Information - 

Taskforce on Telehealth Policy 

The multi-stakeholder Taskforce on Telehealth Policy, convened by the Alliance, NCQA and ATA is seeking input from the public as it develops policy recommendations to advance quality and patient experience while establishing a stable, long-term environment that fosters the growth and integration of remote services within the healthcare system.

Comments are due by Wednesday, July 8. Taskforce conveners will host a live town hall after the public comment period closes to discuss the suggestions.

The Taskforce RFI was highlighted by POLITICO, Inside Health Policy and Health Leaders Media

Federal Agency Telehealth Activity / Guidance

The Alliance for Connected Care continues to update a COVID-19 website tracking guidance.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC): (6/24) – FCC approved the twelfth set of COVID-19 Telehealth Program applications, funding an additional 77 health care providers. To date, FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has funded 444 health care providers in 46 states and D.C. for a total of $157.64 million in funding. List of awards.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: (6/25) – CMS issued a proposed rule to permanently expand home health telehealth options, which were approved for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. If finalized, home health agencies would be able to continue to use telehealth to provide care to beneficiaries as a home health benefit, as long as the telecommunications technology is related to the skilled services being furnished, is part of a beneficiary’s care plan and is tied to a patient’s specific needs. The proposed changes are the first temporary telehealth provisions during COVID-19 CMS is proposing to make permanent.

    Congressional Activity and Legislation

    The Alliance for Connected Care continues to update a recent telehealth legislation page.

    TELEHEALTH HSA Act (S. 4039): (6/23) – Sen. Loeffler (R-GA) introduced the Telemedicine Everywhere Lifting Everyone’s Healthcare Experience and Long Term Health (TELEHEALTH) HSA Act , which would make permanent the permissible first-dollar coverage of telehealth services for purposes of health savings accounts. View the press release.

    Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act (H.R. 7338): (6/25) – Reps. Cheney (R-WY), Smith (R-MO), Gianforte (R-MT) and Kustoff (R-TN) introduced the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act, which would permit the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive requirements relating to the furnishing of telehealth services under the Medicare program. View the press release. Bill text will be linked on the Alliance website when posted.

    Protect Telehealth Access Act (H.R. 7391): (6/26) – Reps. Sherrill (D-NJ), Hern (R-OK) and Schrader (D-OR) introduced the Protect Telehealth Access Act, which would remove certain geographic and originating site restrictions on the furnishing of telehealth services under the Medicare program. View the press release. Bill text will be linked on the Alliance website when posted.

    Fierce Healthcare: (6/25) – The House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee and Technology Modernization Subcommittee’s held a hearing this week to discuss telehealth. Witnesses highlighted several aspects of telehealth at the VA during COVID-19. Specifically, telehealth video appointments using the department's VA Video Connect spiked 1,000% since February and Veterans Affairs' providers have conducted 1.1 million tele-mental health visits to more than 350,000 veterans this year. In addition, the VA Office of Connected Care, which oversees telehealth services, has spent $39 million of CARES Act funding for equipment for patients and clinicians, such as iPads, webcams, and speakers.

    News and Reports

    Kaiser Family Foundation: (6/22) – KFF released a new issue brief on state efforts to expand Medicaid coverage and access to telehealth in response to COVID-19. The issue brief highlights the broad flexibilities states have in determining whether and how to cover services delivered via telehealth including to populations that can receive services via telehealth, services and payment rates, the types of providers that can deliver services via telehealth, telehealth modalities allowed, and managed care flexibilities.

    Becker’s Hospital Review: (6/22) - Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, discussed the future of telehealth during a June 22 virtual conference. He expects 30 percent of in-person patient-doctor visits to shift to telehealth following the coronavirus pandemic.

    mHealthIntelligence: (6/22) – Eighty-eight percent of a roughly 2,000 person survey say a “specialized remote health monitoring device” would help them manage their health at home, and about 75 percent said they’d use such a device it were given to them by their doctor.

    HCP Live: (6/22) – More than half (54.7%) of primary care specialists in a 1,300-plus survey expressed desire to continue using telemedicine and other remote services very frequently at the end of the pandemic.

    Idaho Press: (6/22) – Idaho Governor Little signed an executive order (EO) making all of the waivers of telehealth regulations issued during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent. The changes will go before the Legislature for review when lawmakers convene in January.

    VA Vantage Point: (6/22) - Michael Novielli, a veteran and former U.S. Marine during the late 1960’s describes his experience with COVID-19 and telehealth. He also uses remote patient monitoring technology to monitor his blood pressure at home. “It was the best move I ever made,” said Novielli.

    Becker’s Hospital Review: (6/23) - Minneapolis-based M Health Fairview announced they will expand their telemedicine hub pilot to local homeless shelter for patients who need mental health and addiction therapy. Originally intended to decrease patients' exposure to COVID-19, the telemedicine hubs will continue after the pandemic because their central location allows patients to cut travel time and miss fewer appointments, said Dr. Levine, a psychiatrist and family medicine provider who helped launch the effort.

    mHealthIntelligence: (6/24) – Telehealth programs across the nation also addressing the needs of students stuck at home – many for mental health counseling. For some, the school nurse was the student’s only access to healthcare pre-pandemic. Nurses are shifting to school-based telehealth programs to continue to meet the need.

    Health Payer Intelligence: (6/24) – PwC’s 2021 medical cost trend report found that while mental healthcare utilization and specialty drug spending will increase healthcare spending in 2021, the increase may be mitigated by widespread telehealth adoption and narrower networks.

    STAT News: (6/25) – While we have heard a lot about the rapid uptick in both patient and provider use of telehealth, the implementation to support telehealth takes both resources and expertise, of which some practices may not have. These barriers may explain recent findings that the use of telemedicine is now steadily declining.

    Healthcare Dive: (6/25) – Three healthcare Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) reflect on their rapid implementation of telemedicine – and why they wish they would have moved faster.

    Healthcare Finance: (6/25) - The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation this week donated $1 million to support the Massachusetts-based Community Care Cooperative's campaign to increase telehealth capacity, training and infrastructure for its network of health centers throughout the state.

    mHealthIntelligence: (6/25) – A Chicago health system launched a telehealth program using an mHealth wearable to remotely monitor staff and patients at high risk of being infected by the coronavirus.

    Becker’s Hospital Review: (6/25) – According to a survey of almost 800 gastroenterology and hepatology patients and their physicians, 67 percent of both patients and physicians considered video and telephone appointments held during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic as positive and acceptable substitutes to in-person visits. In addition, 61 percent of patients 60 and over said the telemedicine visit was good/better than traditional visits.

    Upcoming Events 

    July 9 – Health IT Leadership Roundtable, “Virtual Care as the New Normal.” Webinar

    July 29 – STAT, “Inside the virtual care boom: What happens when the point of care becomes anywhere?Webinar

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