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AHA finds shortcomings in 21st Century Cures telemedicine provisions


 from: Healthcare DIVE

By  | January 29, 2015

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Dive Brief:

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a “discussion document” seeking feedback on its 21st Century Cures initiative, which is filled with a number of healthcare IT proposals.
  • Key provisions include one that would create a process at the US Food and Drug Administration to expedite the review of “breakthrough” medical devices; another that would require that data be shared by those receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health; and a third to advance telemedicine opportunities for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • However, while suggestions within the provision for improving Medicare’s telehealth policy are broadly considered to be a step in the right direction, a letter from the American Hospital Association to committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) says they don’t go far enough.

Dive Insight:

The ”Advancing Telehealth Opportunities in Medicare” proposal calls on HHS to draw up a methodology to expand coverage and payment for telehealth services nationally. There are limitations to the provision, however. It will only apply if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services find that those telehealth services ”would reduce [or would not result in any increase in] net program spending under this title.”

According to the AHA, the proposal does not address technology limitations within Medicare itself, or how remote monitoring would be funded.

“We also are concerned that the requirement for the Medicare actuary to certify telehealth cost neutrality for specific services would be hard for HHS to operationalize, and would add a time consuming step when technology is advancing at a rapid pace,” the AHA wrote.

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 29th, 2015

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Telemedicine barrier: Why are physicians and their Arkansas state medical board so obstinate?


In Arkansas, Rules Restrict e-Services By Physicians

Teladoc Inc. of Dallas is the latest telemedicine provider to be shut out of Arkansas because of Arkansas State Medical Board rules involving physician-patient relationships.

The board has traditionally defined the establishment of a doctor-patient relationship as: an in-person history and a physical,” board attorney Kevin O’Dwyer told Arkansas Business recently.

And without that, the telemedicine doctors — unless they’ve seen a patient in person — can’t treat Arkansans, making Arkansas one of the handful of states that don’t allow telemedicine companies in their state.

O’Dwyer said the only reason the board has the requirement is to protect the patient.

Still, O’Dwyer said the board discusses the issue “regularly. … We haven’t seen a model from any of these companies that would satisfy, in the board’s opinion, the regulation.”

Teladoc had been offering the service in Arkansas since 2008, its CEO, Jason Gorevic, said. But recently, the board “made it clear that they would take action against physicians who were practicing telemedicine,” Gorevic said.

Teladoc suspended its service in November, pending approval from the board. It has 70,000 members in Arkansas.

338px-Flag_of_Arkansas.svgGorevic said Teladoc has been trying to get a meeting before the board to explain its practice and telemedicine.

“They have, unfortunately, declined our offer to come in and present,” Gorevic said. “In the meantime, there are many other parties in the state who are interested in telemedicine and see its promise for reducing costs, improving quality of care and improving access to care.”

Teladoc offers services across the country except in Arkansas and Idaho, where it also recently suspended its service because of its medical board rules. But Gorevic said he hopes that Teladoc will be allowed to practice in Idaho soon, thanks to pending legislation.

Teladoc sells its services primarily to employers and health plans to use as part of their benefits packages. The members then have full-time access to a national network of board-certified, state-licensed physicians who can be connected to a patient within about eight minutes, Gorevic said.

The patient can decide to interact with the doctor by a video or phone consultation. Or a patient can send a photo of the ailment to the doctor.

Comments: Since 2008 and now the Board is weighing in? Refusing to meet with Teladoc? Patients are free to use to service or NOT? What kind of message is the Arkansas state medical board telling their citizens?

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 26th, 2015

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House Lawmakers Float Draft Bill on Medicare Telehealth Payments


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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 22nd, 2015

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Telemedicine and technology: What’s holding us back?


Putting_the_technology_into_telehealth___TheHill

By Humayun J. Chaudhry M.D. the president and CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards.

One of the more fascinating and exciting elements of living in these times is the rapid development and deployment of technology designed to enhance and improve our lives. But the technology often outpaces us and advances rapidly, leaving gaps between what technology can offer and what it actually achieves.

We’ve seen this happen in many industries. Smartphones for example, are becoming an increasingly important tool not just to text your mother, but to manage her healthcare in later years.  Even with smartphones, the technology is moving so fast that cutting edge technology from just a few years ago is now obsolete. Take a look at the differences between an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6.

Medicine has recently been at the forefront of technological advancement and telemedicine is the latest, and potentially most significant, area of advancement when it comes to access and quality of care. Telemedicine is the use of technology and electronic communications across distances to expand access to care, enhance care options for patients, improve patient and provider education, and streamline health administration processes.Expanding access to care through the technology available today in a safe and closely monitored system is important.  But while state medical boards and other policy makers and care providers are putting technology to work for patients, the existing technology infrastructure – from  a system of medical reimbursement for fee-for-service care, to deficiencies in access to broadband internet, to weaknesses in physician education and training about technology  – is holding us back.

The Alliance for Connected Care, a special interest group that advocates for the expansion of telemedicine, contends that data from 2009 shows that of the 43 million Medicare participants receiving care, just 14,000 received that care through telehealth systems. They cite federal geographic and site restrictions on Medicare reimbursements to doctors as the underlying cause for this discrepancy.

Despite these challenges, telemedicine is moving forward and utilization will undoubtedly increase.

Earlier this year, representatives of the nation’s state medical licensing boards unanimously adopted a Model Policy on the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine, providing much-needed guidance and a basic roadmap for state medical boards to use in overseeing the use of telemedicine technologies in the practice of medicine. The policy also serves to educate licensees as to the appropriate standards of care in the delivery of medical services using telemedicine technologies.

Among its key provisions, the model policy calls for maintaining the same standards of care that have historically protected patients during in-person medical encounters for medical care delivered electronically. Care providers using telemedicine must establish a credible “patient-physician relationship,” the policy says, ensuring that patients are properly evaluated and treated and that providers adhere to well-established principles guiding privacy and security of personal health information, informed consent, safe prescribing and other key areas of medical practice.

The guidelines are designed to provide flexibility in the use of various types of technology by physicians – ranging from telephone and email interactions to videoconferencing – while maintaining widely recognized standards of patient care. The guidelines are advisory, meaning that state medical boards are free to adopt them as is, modify them, or retain their own current policies regarding telemedicine. They reflect a good faith effort by state medical boards to offer constructive solutions to some of the challenges facing telemedicine in the years ahead.

At the same time, federal leaders are beginning to take a closer look at how to responsibly and safely enable telemedicine to reach more Americans in need of care but unable to easily access the health care system in their community. While real questions about the quality of care, costs, accessibility, efficiency and other challenges remain, the technology and health care industries are moving ahead in this direction and telemedicine is already becoming part of the fabric of discussions about modern health care.

If telemedicine is to succeed, however, the technology supporting it needs to improve and be more interoperable.  Congress should examine policies that modernize the delivery of medical care while protecting the quality of care for patients.  Moving quickly, but deliberately, is important. We need compatible and secure technologies that can talk to each other. In the end, we can’t succeed in a smartphone world with a flip-phone infrastructure.

 

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 15th, 2015

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U of Miami School of Medicine Offers Haiti Telemed Trauma Support


From Health Data Management

The University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine recently launched a telemedicine program that provides doctors at Haiti’s only trauma, critical care, and rehabilitation hospital with access to around-the-clock medical support through live video communication with UM trauma specialists.

Located in Port-au-Prince’s Village Solidarite neighborhood, Hospital Bernard Mevs sees a high volume of adult and pediatric patients with a range of critical injuries and conditions doctors there are not fully equipped to handle.

“Although the basics of stabilization are in place and can be done by the majority of the Haitian staff, there are cases that require more sophisticated and specialized attention to manage properly,” said Antonia Eyssallenne, M.D., who developed the program in collaboration with Carl I. Schulman, M.D.

With the new telemedicine project, guidance from an on-call UM trauma doctor will be a phone call and a few computer clicks away — enabling the staff at Hospital Bernard Mevs to better diagnose, stabilize injuries, and provide longer term care to patients.

In addition to providing trauma support, Schulman said the live video technology will allow UM doctors to assist with some of the regular critical care hospital rounds.

 

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 13th, 2015

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The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone


Over the past decade, smartphones have  changed many aspects of our everyday lives, from banking to shopping to entertainment. Medicine is next. The patient, are about to take center stage for the first time.

With the smartphone revolution, an increasingly powerful new set of tools—from attachments that can diagnose an ear infection or track heart rhythms to an app that can monitor mental health—can reduce our use of doctors, cut costs, speed up the pace of care and give more power to patients. Digital avatars won’t replace physicians: You will still be seeing doctors, but the relationship will ultimately be radically altered.

This transformation is already under way.

Examples include:

    • Diagnosis and treatment of skin rashes
    • Diagnose ear infections  and recommend treatments;
    • Blood pressure readings and ECG’s;
    • Estimate the costs of medical procedures, tests, scans and other types of care;
    • Facilitate video consultations with physicians at the same cost of a typical copayment 24 hours per day;
    • Track individuals’ heart rhythms; and
    • Monitor patients’ mental health.

You can obtain on demand  secure video consultation with a doctor via smartphone at the same cost (about $30-$40) as the typical copay charge through employer health plans.

Now a smartphone can generate your own medical data, including measuring your blood-oxygen and glucose levels, blood pressure and heart rhythm. A smartphone attachment will let you perform an easy eardrum exam that can rapidly diagnose the problem without a trip to the pediatrician.

Other wearable sensor tools for the future include necklaces that  monitor your heart function and check the amount of fluid in your lungs, contact lenses that can track your glucose levels or your eye pressure (to help manage glaucoma), and head bands that can capture your brain waves. Even gait monitoring for Parkinson’s is on the way.

Smartphones to monitor your exposure to radiation, air pollution or pesticides in foods will be available. And your medications could soon be digitized to provide you with reminders to ensure that you’ve taken them as prescribed.

It isn’t just hospitals’ rooms that are on their way out; so are their labs. Smartphone attachments will soon enable you to perform an array of routine lab tests via your phone. Blood electrolytes; liver, kidney and thyroid function; analysis of breath, sweat and urine—all can be checked with small fluid samples in little labs that plug directly into smartphones. And you can do your own routine labs at a fraction of the current cost.

Smartphone selfies are all the rage, but smartphone physical exams are just taking off. The ability to make a definitive DIY diagnosis of an ear infection with a phone is just the first step. Apps are now being developed to handle all aspects of the eye, the throat and oral cavity, and the lungs and heart. Meanwhile, nearly all sophisticated medical imaging devices are being miniaturized: Hand-held ultrasound devices are already available, and some medical schools have begun issuing them in the place of the old-school stethoscope. Hand-held MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines aren’t far behind, and engineers at UCLA have come up with a smartphone-sized device that can generate X-rays. It won’t be long before you can take a smartphone X-ray selfie if you’re worried that you might have broken a bone.

In the near future you will be able to place nanosensors  in your bloodstream. These microscopic sensors will be able to keep your blood under constant surveillance for the first appearance of cancer, autoimmune attacks on vital tissues or the tiny cracks in artery walls that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Big changes can be expected in mental health, which is also the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many other developed countries. Smartphones can be particularly helpful here. New apps aim to quantify your state of mind by a composite of real-time data: tone and inflection of voice, facial expression, breathing pattern, heart rate, galvanic skin response, blood pressure, even the frequency and content of your emails and texts.

Just as the printing press democratized information, the medicalized smartphone will democratize health care. Anywhere you can get a mobile signal, you’ll have new ways to practice data-driven medicine. Patients won’t just be empowered; they’ll be emancipated.

 

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 12th, 2015

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New York lawmakers help with telemedicine


January 5, 2015

A law that just took effect is streamlining the push to expand the telemedicine industry, which is redefining how people access health care on the go.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the law as part of a series of last-minute actions at the close of 2014.

The law improves regulations tied to insuring and paying businesses and nonprofits behind the ongoing expansion of telemedicine offerings, including a range of new digital health care products on smartphones, and computers.

Many health care providers have been urging lawmakers to better protect them against lawsuits and other potential risk as they pursued telemedicine. Millions of dollars have already been invested in these new health care technologies by major national insurers and the largest hospital systems.

For example, Empire BlueCross has been offering virtual doctor’s visits via the Internet for more than 3.5 million people through their respective employers’ health plan.

Ellis Medicine, a hospital system based in Schenectady, New York, has been partnering with grocery stores and pharmacies to shift more forms of health care away from the more costly hospital settings.

Dr. Michael Cropp, president and CEO of Independent Health, among the largest insurers based in Buffalo, New York said significant investments required to grow telemedicine are playing key roles in major partnerships transforming thousands of health care jobs.

Just look at the game-changing collaboration taking shape between Independent Health and CDPHP, the second-largest insurer based in Albany.

“Much of this technology is going to be pretty much the same in terms of needs, whether they’re in Buffalo, or Albany,” Cropp said.

The Healthcare Association of New York State, a trade group based in Rensselaer, lobbied for the new telemedicine law, which is related to related to insurance and Medicaid payment for telehealth and telemedicine services. The group represents more than 250 hospitals and other health care providers in New York, making it among the largest health care groups in the state.

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 5th, 2015

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Dr. Phil invests in telemedicine


Dr. Phil in an interview with USA Today discusses he and his son’s investment intelemedicine:

 

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: January 4th, 2015

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Rural Rheumatology Telemedicine Services Satisfy Patients


from HCP Live

MONDAY, Dec. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Patient satisfaction is high with a rural rheumatology telemedicine service, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

Katherine A. Poulsen  and colleagues, from The Townsville Hospital in Australia, examined patient satisfaction with the rheumatology telemedicine service provided in a rural town in Southern Australia.

Data were collected from 107 rheumatology outpatients (49 seen at local telemedicine clinics, 46 travelled to be seen face-to-face, and 12 seen at an infrequent local face-to-face clinic).

The researchers found that:

  • Satisfaction with themes relating to quality-of-care was high;
  • More than 90% of patients agreed or strongly agreed with these questions.
  • There were no significant differences noted in the rates of those selecting “strongly agree” across questions comparing models of care, except for one question relating to rapport, in which the local face-to-face model was favored (P = 0.018).
  • Sixty-three percent of patients disagreed or strongly disagreed that they would rather travel for a face-to-face appointment than participate in a telemedicine consultation.

“These results suggest that patients are satisfied with a rheumatology telemedicine service, and may prefer this to extensive traveling,” the authors write. “Evaluation in other settings is recommended before generalizing this finding.”

 

COMMENT: Patients are satisfied and with convenient access plus elimination of time and cost for transportation are very appealing.

 

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: December 30th, 2014

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Will 2015 deliver the promise of telemedicine?


Telemedicine

Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Venture Beats reports:


The year of 2014 was a big year for telemedicine. The idea of using technology to provide remote health care has been around for years, but it really started to take off this year with the proliferation of wearable devices, and providers starting to embrace seeing patients through video chat.

In July, Dignity Health unveiled telemedicine robots to bring in specialist physicians from remote locations. Then, in October, Google unveiled a new ‘talk with a doctor now’ video chat service. Even pharmacies got into the act, with remote medical kiosks popping up in Walgreens, CVS, and Wal-mart.

There are several indicators that 2015 will be the year that telemedicine really takes off. Read any predictions related to healthcare, and telemedicine is central in those discussions. Here are just some of the indicators:

  • The Global Telemedicine market in 2016 is predicted to be $27 billion, with Virtual Health Services making up $16 billion of that amount (BBC Research and Towers Watson).

  • By 2018, 65 percent of interactions with healthcare organizations will be done via mobile devices, and by 2018 70 percent of them will have apps, offer wearables, do remote health monitoring, and even offer virtual care (IDC).

  • More than one-third of the money Google Ventures invested in 2014 went to healthcare and life-sciences companies.

Telemedicine will certainly deliver significant financial benefits and efficiencies for players in the healthcare space, including providers and insurance companies. For example, virtual health has the potential to reduce all doctor visits by 93 percent at a savings of $103 per visit ($1,067 per emergency room visit). Fifty percent of all doctor visits can be conducted virtually, and 70 percent of all electronic medical record (EMR) visits can be conducted virtually. The big winner in the rise of telemedicine, however, is the patient. With new technology and capabilities, the patient can receive faster, better quality care with superior outcomes.

This all sounds promising, but is telemedicine guaranteed to explode in 2015? Not exactly. The following needs to happen for this growth to occur:

  • Virtual diagnosis and on-the-spot treatment are combined. Many companies offer to connect patients to doctors via video calls. However, the best that most of these companies can do is conduct a virtual diagnosis; the patient still needs to see a doctor in person to get treatment. Mobile-friendly diagnostic devices such as Tyto enable doctors to complete a more thorough diagnosis and provide on-the-spot treatment. As these devices become more accessible (either directly purchased by individuals, provided as a part of a service such as WorldClinic, or incorporated into local health kiosks), patient treatment can begin immediately before the patient even gets off the phone, resulting in better outcomes for the patient and the healthcare. [Disclosure: WorldClinic is one of Highnote Foundry’s current incubator companies.]

  • The best in connected devices are used. The healthcare industry is starting to leverage the data patients already get from personal FitBits, Apple Health, and other consumer health tracking systems. By creating a normalized set of patient and care data and by integrating these connected devices, tele-health providers can both lower the cost of care and improve overall patient outcomes. For example, American Well’s direct-to-consumer app integrates health related data, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels into its video visits app. Providers should not be reliant on any one technology or system but rather invest in a scalable model that integrates and assesses the data from any wearable or connected device to deliver personalized, remote care that is genuinely preventative.

  • Post-treatment care and compliance are provided. Most discussion of device-based monitoring centers around prevention but stops short of tracking patient responses to ensure that treatments are effective and modifying treatment as necessary. For example, First Opinion is one organization that provides an anonymous service of text-based responses within five minutes from doctors. First Opinion bills itself as being in the “relationship business,” and its doctors are supposed to stay in touch with patients past the initial contact until they are sure the issue is resolved. Prevention and compliance should be the real goals of telemedicine and are the way to truly drive significant reduction in costs. To do this, providers need to understand the patient’s past medical history and also capture all of the new data associated with telemedicine into an electronic record that follows the patient. Finally, integration with the patient’s existing set of healthcare providers, including specialists, pharmacies and even family caregivers will be essential. Together, this will mean opportunities for entirely new healthcare technology platforms.

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Posted by: C3O Telemedicine News

Posted on: December 29th, 2014

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