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.
State Telehealth and Licensure Expansion COVID-19 Dashboard: The Alliance continues to update our dashboard reflecting ending state waivers and the impacts on patient access to care. During the public health emergency, all 50 states and the District of Columbia used emergency authority to waive some aspect(s) of state licensure requirements to facilitate patients getting care. This has provided an unprecedented opportunity for patients, providers, and policymakers to explore the impact of cross-state care. This has benefited the delivery of health care in many ways, but perhaps most notably, it has opened up many new avenues for patient choice and access to care. As states begin to lift their COVID-19 emergency waivers or let them expire, many of the telehealth and licensure flexibilities enacted at the start of the pandemic to ensure continuity and access to care for patients are also expiring. The chart outlines which states have lifted their COVID-19 emergency waivers, and how this has impacted telehealth and licensing flexibilities in each state. The document can be found here, and continues to be updated regularly on our website
TIME: Telehealth Took Off During the Pandemic. Now Battles Over State Lines and Licensing Threaten Patients’ Options (8/26) – States are beginning to roll back many pandemic-era flexibilities, which means the ability to conduct telehealth visits with patients in another state is ending in several states. Johns Hopkins Medicine, for example, recently scrambled to notify over 1,000 Virginia patients that their telehealth appointments were “no longer feasible” when the state’s emergency declaration expired. According to an Alliance for Connected Caretracker, only about 17 states still have waivers in effect, which has sparks concern about interrupted care and barriers in access to care, in addition to adding to a larger debate about medical licensing and care across state lines.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC): FCC Announces Awards for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program (8/26) – The Federal Communications Commission approved an initial set of 62 applications for funding commitments totaling $41.98 million for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, including those previously unfunded in Round 1, will use this funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): Comparative Billing Report in August (8/26) – CMS announced that the agency is releasing a Special Edition Comparative Bill Report on the PHE’s impact on Part B telehealth claims. The report is not open to the public.
mHealth Intelligence: Kaiser Permanente Helps Hawaii Organizations Expand Telehealth Access (8/26) – Kaiser Permanente has provided $143,000 in grants to four community-based organizations in Hawaii, with a goal of expanding telehealth access to low-income, uninsured, and homeless populations served by these organizations. The grants will help the organizations extend telehealth outreach to communities in the state who have a difficult time accessing care and will address digital equity for vulnerable patients. The funding will also help the organizations manage the changes made to accommodate rapid adoption of telehealth during the pandemic, such as new technology platforms and workflows.
Becker’s Hospital Review: Telehealth usage threatened by state licensing requirements: 7 things to know (8/26) – At the start of the pandemic, majority of states and CMS waived telehealth restrictions requiring providers to be licensed in the state where their patient lives. As state emergency declarations begin to expire, many patients receiving care via telehealth from providers in another state have had to cancel appointments or find a new care plan. This article outlines seven key challenges occurring around state licensure laws and possible solutions, including reference to the TREAT Act which would temporarily allow clinicians licensed in one state to treat patients in another state, both in-person and via telehealth, during the PHE.
Healthcare IT News: Mass. community health centers conduct more than 1M telehealth visits (8/26) – The Massachusetts Federally Qualified Health Center Telehealth Consortium announced that dozens of its members have conducted over one million telehealth visits since March 2020. The Consortium has also passed the halfway mark of its $12 million goal aimed at sustaining telehealth capacity and addressing disparities among the patients that its 35 community health center members serve.
WTOP News: Pilot program expands access to telehealth service in Maryland (8/26) – The Maryland Department of Health is using $1.5 million in federal funding to pay for smartphones, tablets, and high-speed internet access for people seeking help for mental health and substance abuse problems. This is part of an effort by the state to increase access to telehealth services and remove barriers based on income, race, ethnicity, and geographic location. Devices will be loaned out to 375 patients over a one-year period across 10 jurisdictions within the state.
Governing: Ohio Considers Making Telehealth Permanent Post-Pandemic (8/23) – State officials in Ohio are considering whether to make telehealth a permanent option, given its uptick in use throughout the pandemic. The State Medical Board of Ohio originally set September 17 as the deadline to stop expanded use of telehealth by health officials, which would give a three-month off-ramp after the state’s emergency declaration ended. However, the board pushed this deadline back to December 31, given feedback from various stakeholders and concern around the ongoing pandemic. This extension will allow the State Medical Board to consider what aspects of telehealth expansion should remain permanent after the public health emergency. The state legislature, on the other hand, has a bill pending that would expand what can be done via telehealth (House Bill 122).
Telehealth Research, Reports and Surveys
Parks Associates: 64% of Consumers Report Using a Telehealth Service in 2021, Up From 15% in 2019 (8/26) – Parks Associates released new consumer data showing that 64% of US broadband households reported using a telehealth service in 2021, up from 15% in 2019. The international research firm will share the latest consumer data on healthcare trends on August 31 and September 1 as part of the eighth annual Connected Health Summit: Consumer Engagement and Innovation.
Business Group on Health: 2022 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey (8/25) – The 2022 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey asked large employers about changes they made to their health care programs and benefits in 2021, while looking ahead to 2022. The results reflect the perspectives and plan designs of 136 large employers that cover more than 8 million lives. The takeaway: Roughly three-quarters of the nation’s large businesses expanded their telehealth programs for employees during the pandemic, and many may use those channels in the future to address social determinants of health and improve access to mental health services.
Experian Health: The state of patient access 2.0 (8/24) – Experian Health surveyed
consumers over 18 years of age who received care services over the past 12 months. Results find that patients are growing more confident and comfortable with digital and virtual tools for accessing healthcare services. In November, 37% expressed concerns about the tools compared to 29% in June. In June, 86% of patients said they were more confident about returning to healthcare facilities to receive care compared to 81% of respondents in November. Forty percent of patients rescheduled medical procedures they initially canceled due to the pandemic compared to just 13% who reported doing so last year. About one-third of patients reported wanting telehealth and remote services as a permanent option to communicate with their clinicians.
Telehealth News and Market Developments
Journal of the American Medical Association: Mobile Telemedicine for Buprenorphine Treatment in Rural Populations With Opioid Use Disorder (8/27) – In an effort
to remedy the opioid epidemic, University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers reconfigured a recreational vehicle (RV) as a telemedicine mobile treatment unit to determine whether it could provide effective screening and treatment to individuals with opioid use disorder in rural areas. Their research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, found their approach to be as successful as traditional brick-and-mortar treatment clinics. The study also found a significant reduction in illicit opioid use among the majority of patients treated on the mobile unit, as well as sustained success in these patients continuing therapy to avoid relapse.
Health Tech Magazine: How eDOT Technologies Help Improve Medication Adherence (8/26) – Electronic directly observed therapy allows providers to virtually ensure patients are taking prescriptions properly and at the correct time. Not only does this save time and resources, but also it can lead to better health outcomes. Healthcare providers can also use eDOT to adjust some habits, such as taking diabetes medication with food, making sure transplant recipients are taking their medication punctually, or providing assurance about side effects. It can also aid the clinician in providing daily coaching or training to patients.
Modern Healthcare: Headspace, Ginger to merge into $3B digital mental-health company (8/25) – Headspace and Ginger, two app-based digital mental health firms that work with employers and health plans, will merge into a combined company called Headspace Health, they announced. As a combined company, Headspace Health will be valued at $3 billion, according to the companies. Headspace Health will cover nearly 100 million lives through more than 2,700 employers and health plans and its direct-to-consumer customers.
mHealth Intelligence: MUSC, FQHC Consortium Unveil Telehealth Strategies for Sustainability (8/25) – The Medical University of South Carolina and Massachusetts-based FQHC Telehealth Consortium have outlined their telehealth strategies in reports designed to help others establish scalable and sustainable programs. Staff at the Medical University of South Carolina, for example, have created a Telehealth Service Implementation Model (TSIM), offering an inside look into how one of the nation’s two National Telehealth Centers of Excellence developed its platform of more than 80 connected health services reaching almost 275 sites across the state.