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In-Depth: What Texas’s landmark telemedicine legislation means for the industry and the nation

Governor signs bill making Texas 50th state to allow direct-to-consumer telemedicine   By Jonah Comstock | May 26, 2017   In the State of Texas, a major piece of telemedicine legislation is sitting on Governor Greg Abbott’s desk. Known as Senate Bill 1107 and House Bill 2697, the bill abolishes the requirement that patient-physician relationships be established with an in-person visit before telemedicine can be used. (Update: As expected, Abbott signed the bill on Saturday.) Texas is the final state of 50 to abolish this requirement, so the bill’s passage will allow national direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies like Teladoc, American Well, Doctor on Demand, and MD Live to extend their video-based operations nationwide. Technically, there are still limitations in Arkansas and Idaho, as those states still have restrictions on phone call-only telemedicine. As well as opening up this market and bringing telemedicine services to a large, geographically distributed population that could greatly benefit from them, this bill also signals the end of a more than two-year legal battle between Teladoc and the Texas Medical Board that culminated in what might have been a landmark antitrust case. As we wait for Governor Abbott to sign the bill (and according to multiple sources, the signing is all but a foregone conclusion), MobiHealthNews is diving deep into the history of this bill, how it came to be, and what its passing means for Texas, telemedicine, and the nation. History: A medical board rule and legal battles In some ways, Texas is an unlikely last state to welcome telemedicine. As a large state with a geographically distributed population and a lot of rural poverty, it’s a prime candidate...

Telehealth benefits: Should brokers join the movement?

There are several reasons to believe that telemedicine is on an upward trajectory.   May 1, 2017 | David Reid   With the way the industry is quickly gravitating towards technology, it’s a good time for brokers to consider adding telehealth coverage options for their clients. So much of life — work, family, entertainment — now takes place online, so it’s no surprise that health care delivery is increasingly happening online as well. In early 2016, the American Telemedicine Association reported that there were 1 million virtual doctor visits in 2015. The Association projected that that number would grow by 20 percent in 2016. However robust the growth rate, virtual visits represent a very small proportion of the 922.6 million recorded doctor visits in 2013 by the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Still, there are several reasons to believe that telemedicine is on an upward trajectory. In March 2016, Avizia, a telehealth platform provider, surveyed 280 healthcare providers and found that 72 percent of hospitals and 25 percent of physician groups offered some form of telemedicine.  And tellingly, the National Business Group on Health’s 2016 survey of 140 companies found that the majority of large employers (those with a workforce of 5,000 or more) offered some type of telemedicine benefit. The Group forecasts that by 2020, virtually all large employers will provide some type of virtual health coverage for their employees. A broader survey conducted by Mercer in 2015, which sampled 2,500 companies with 10 or more employees, found that 60 percent provided some type of telemedicine coverage, double the percentage that had done so the year before. Telehealth...

Digital Health: Gaining a Competitive Advantage

  Apr 21, 2017 | By Michelle Maskaly [1]   Imagine asking someone who their primary care physician is, and them responding by saying it’s their iPhone. That could be the future of digital health. Digital health is one of those industry buzzwords that make healthcare executives both excited and nervous. Excited, because it’s seen as innovative, cutting edge, and can create potential for new programs and ideas. Nervous, because of cost, regulations, and the reality that it could mean a complete overhaul of the way a pharmaceutical or healthcare company has traditionally done business. What’s driving the digital health trend? It’s actually very simple. The answer is, mobile devices. “We no longer go online, we live online,” said David Blair, head of industry–health for Google, during his presentation at eyeforpharma’s Philadelphia conference this week. “It’s no wonder you can’t list your iPhone as your primary care doctor.” If you think this isn’t the case, consider the statistic Blair cited–there are four-times as many Android devices activated every minute than babies born. He also explained that time spent online is up 33 percent in just four years. Patients are increasingly taking more control of their healthcare options, and as they spend more time on their mobile devices, they can, “swipe you out of the way, or click on you, and engage.” “There is a massive shift in point-of-care,” Blair explained. “We can provide care anywhere. We no longer have to go to a physical location.” Now that we know mobile devices are playing such a large part in healthcare these days, what’s the secret sauce to capitalizing on it? “Make...

Telehealth: A Vital Tool in the Home Healthcare Space

Health systems are using digital health tools and telehealth platforms to better care for patients after they leave the hospital, as well as those most at risk of returning. The platform adds critical value to a struggling home healthcare service line.   March 02, 2017 | Eric Wicklund– Editor, mHealthIntelligence   A North Carolina-based health system is one of several using telehealth to improve its home healthcare services – a critical move in light of expected cuts in home health reimbursements from Medicare. FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a five-hospital health system based in Pinehurst, N.C., reportedly saved almost $2 million by using telehealth to care for high-risk patients who don’t qualify for Medicare-funded home health services. The health system used a grant from the Duke Endowment to create a care management program for selected patients in its Medicare Advantage plan. Under the pilot program, launched in late 2015, the patients were visited by a home health nurse within 48 hours of discharge, then given an mHealth enabled tablet that allows them to track their own vital signs and send that data to FirstHealth. The digital health platform also enabled patients to access personalized health and wellness information and collaborate with FirstHealth on an ongoing care plan. According to health system officials, while the telehealth platform cost roughly $700 per patient for a 60-day care plan, rehospitalizations would have cost the health system more than $8,000 for each patient – none of which is covered by Medicare, and some of which could have cost the health system even more in penalties. “We looked at – for all the patients we...

Telemedicine saves time, travel costs, even air quality, new study finds

Findings confirm the benefits of telemedicine in terms of real savings to patients and to the environment By Heather Mack | March 22, 2017   While telehealth policies, technological advancements and utilization continue to grow, whether it actually reduces healthcare costs and improves outcomes is still a point of some contention. As the bulk of such analysis focuses on the bottom line of health plans and employers, researchers at University of California Davis instead are looking on how it impacts patients at a more basic level: driving costs. Spanning across two decades – and undoubtedly many fluctuations in gas prices and internet connectivity capabilities – the study, which was published in the online journal Value in Health, examines 18 years of UC Davis’s own clinical records from 1996 to 2013, evaluating inpatient and outpatient interactive video visits for 19,246 patients. Typically, the patient would still visit their primary care doctor, but they would then together consult a UC Davis specialist via video consultation. The cost savings were measured based on patient travel to a telemedicine center near there home versus traveling to UC Davis Health in Sacramento for specialty care. Collectively, telemedicine visits saved patients nearly nine years of travel time, five million miles and $3 million in costs. Of course, on a more granular, individual level, those numbers are a little more modest: over 20 years, one person could see a cost savings of four hours of driving time, 278 miles and $156 in direct travel costs. The study was regional, but California is a big state, and many rural areas are underserved not just by medicine but...

Use of Locum Tenens Physicians Keeps Growing

Rise in hiring of locum tenens by hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare organizations driven by physician shortage and employed physician model January 20, 2017 Ken Terry, Contributing Editor, Medscape Medical News In a reflection of changing practice patterns, an increasing number of hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare organizations are hiring locum tenens physicians to fill gaps in care, according to a new survey released by Staff Care, a firm that staffs healthcare facilities. The survey found that about 48,000 physicians work in locum tenens positions, up from 44,000 in 2014 and 26,000 in 2002. Of the 206 managers of healthcare facilities who responded to the 2016 survey, 94% said they’d employed locum tenens physicians within the past 12 months, compared to 91% in 2014 and 74% in 2012. Forty-seven percent of the facilities were actively seeking locum tenens doctors, up from 42% in 2014 and 39% in 2012. Primary care doctors were the most sought-after locum tenens practitioners. Almost 44% of the facility managers had hired temporary primary care doctors in the past year, compared to 35% in 2014 and 28% in 2012. Also in demand were hospitalists, behavioral healthcare providers, and emergency medicine physicians. About three quarters of the managers had used at least one locum tenens physician in a typical month, and 24% had used four or more, up from 18% in 2014. Just more than a quarter of the managers had hired locum tenens nurse practitioners or physician assistants, compared to nearly 10% in 2012. Locum tenens physicians were mainly used to fill in until permanent doctors were found in certain specialties or to address staff turnover....

Why we need team-based chronic care management

February 7, 2017 | By Ruth Perry Primary Care Development Corporation A few years ago I was involved in the case of John Smith (not his real name), a patient who was referred by the hospital emergency department (ED) to a care management team in a low-income urban community in New Jersey. John was a homeless man who’d been living in an emergency shelter for three years with insulin-dependent diabetes, blindness, and chronically low sodium levels. The team consisted of a nurse case manager, a social worker, and two community health workers. Because of John’s multiple disorders, his management was complicated and he fell into a cycle of bouncing between the ED and his assisted living facility. During one particularly difficult weekend, John was brought to the ED three times. Only after the nurse case manager and I spoke to his treating physicians at the hospital and nursing home were we able to determine the cause of all his ailments. They placed him on appropriate medication. The care management team continued to work with him, arranging an appointment with an ophthalmologist who determined that his blindness was due to cataracts, which were corrected with surgery. With his vision restored and his medical conditions managed, John was able to find stable housing, was linked to primary care, and is currently living independently. He had no further ED visits. This is an extraordinary case where the application of team-based chronic care management (CCM) was able not just to help a patient get healthy, but to take control of his life again. This is not an isolated incident; countless others have had...

The Telehealth Movement

Our professionals at Assurgent Medical Staffing are constantly looking for innovative ways to provide opportunities for doctors and medical facilities. Right now, the most innovative concept in healthcare is Telehealth. Our goal is to help medical practices, hospitals, and clinics understand the benefits of utilizing telehealth in their facility, while at the same time providing an opportunity to medical providers to reach more patients in a more efficient and less time consuming manner. Telehealth, also known as Tele-Medicine, is booming right now. An article published on Forbes.com in September 2015 brings to light 5 different companies who are leading the way in this industry. However, before we get into the five leading “tele-companies”, where did the idea for telehealth come from? The article pointed at two different factors that paved the way for Telehealth. First, telehealth is modeled off of online banking. With online banking, it took some time for people to understand the convenience of its use. Today, most people never step foot into an actual bank unless it is for a purpose that cannot be dealt with online. Telehealth is expanding, and will likely end up being utilized in the same fashion. The other company that has paved the way for Telehealth is Microsoft. Microsoft came out with their Kinect Motion Sensor in order to create a better gaming experience. Little did they know that this technology would be so useful in the medical field. The human skeletal tracking system can be used for musculoskeletal health. Microsoft’s Senior Director for Worldwide Health, Dr. Bill Crounse explained, “I have seen Kinect being used in applications for physical medicine and...