Information on the rapid expansion in use of telehealth for health care delivery. Topics include telehealth impacts on access to care and telehealth-related changes to health workforce regulations, service requirements, and funding.

(7/26/2022) Centering Health Equity in Telemedicine
A special report published in the Annals of Family Medicine by researchers from San Francisco and New York, outlines actionable steps to address the growing racial/ethnic, linguistic and socioeconomic disparities in telehealth models of care during the COVID-19 pandemic, by outlining the pillars of a health equity framework from the Institute for Healthcare improvement and overlaying a concrete example of telemedicine equity. The paper advocates for making health and racial/ethnic equity in telemedicine a strategic priority, building structures and processes to support telemedicine equity, deploying telemedicine strategies to address determinants of health, eliminating institutional racism in telemedicine provision and partnering with patients and community organizations to implement telemedicine.

(7/7/22) The Potential Impact of Allied Health Professional Telehealth Consultations on Health Inequities and the Burden of Treatment
A recent study published in the International Journal for Equity in Health exploring the prevalence of telehealth consultations amongst allied health professional (AHP) services in the UK National Health Service (NHS) showed that 87.4% of clinicians and 89.4% of services represented were using telehealth consultations to deliver healthcare and planned to continue using telehealth post COVID-19 restrictions. Reported benefits for clinicians include reduction in parking/transport cost, saving travel time and flexible working while those for AHP service include patient flexibility in conducting their appointments and reducing staff exposure to communicable diseases. Reported disadvantages for patients include lack of technology and technological skills or limited digital literacy. The study cautioned about the increase in disparities in healthcare access for such vulnerable populations and negation of potential benefits of telehealth such as sustainability, patient empowerment and reduction in burden of treatment.

(05/31/22) US Senators Release Draft Telehealth Policies for Mental Healthcare
Four US senators have released a new draft for telehealth policies to improve mental healthcare during the pandemic. Policies mentioned in the draft include, removing Medicare requirements for in-person visits before telehealth, urging Medicaid and Medicare providers to support telehealth users, and calling for states to use CHIP programs to improve-in person and virtual behavioral health services in schools.

(5/13/22) Future of Nursing: Telehealth, More Innovation and Maybe Some Robots
This article discusses the future of nursing, telehealth, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in nursing, among other innovations. In the future, the telehealth role will be expanded for different specialties “while maintaining the focus on high-quality patient care and increased access to care.” The expansion of telehealth will help save military lives on the battlefield and better prepare nurses for future pandemics and catastrophes.

(04/25/22) Inside the Big Variations in Telehealth Use Among Physicians
This article from the American Medical Association outlines the different ways telehealth has been used among physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than three-quarters of physicians reporting using telehealth and many suggesting they will seek to use telehealth further in the future.

(04/19/22) Mental Health vs Primary Care: How Americans Are Using Telehealth
This article from U.S. News & World Report highlights private insurance claims data to compare telehealth services offered in the context of primary care and mental health care. Social work has accounted for significant percentages of insurance claims involving telehealth, highlighting the growth and importance of mental health remote services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(04/11/22) Executive Summary: Tracking Telehealth Changes State-by-State in Response to COVID-19 – April 2022
This summary from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP provides an update on state-level developments in telehealth policy in the beginning of April 2022. Regulatory changes include some state-specific legislative action as well as changes to payment parity across the US.

(03/22/22) Medicare Patients Received 54.5M Office Visits Via Telehealth in 2020
In the first year of the pandemic, 48 percent of all telehealth services were office visits. Medicare beneficiaries most often used telehealth for office visits in 2020, receiving nearly 55 million virtual office visits in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new federal report by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Overall, telehealth use increased significantly from March 2020 through February 2021, more than 28 million Medicare beneficiaries used a telehealth service (43 percent of the 66 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare). The use of telehealth services did drop from 17.6 million telehealth services in April 2020 to 7.6 million services in November of the same year.But usage was still greatly increased from pre-pandemic numbers.

(03/22/22) OIG: Telehealth “Critical” to Maintaining Access to Care Amidst COVID-19
The federal Office of Inspector General has published a report analyzing the expansion and utilization of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically looking at the impact of telehealth on providing service for Medicare beneficiaries. This report found telehealth to be “critical” to delivering services.

(03/10/22) Congress Omnibus Bill Includes Extension of Medicare Telehealth Coverage
The recent omnibus spending bill, introduced by the House of Representatives, includes provisions to extend telehealth waivers for Medicare patients. If the 1.5 trillion bill becomes law, several temporary telehealth waivers started during the pandemic for Medicare beneficiaries will be extended for at least 5 months after the public health emergency expires.

(03/09/22) National Telehealth Use Skyrocketed Amid Omicron Surge
A news study found that national telehealth increased 11.4 percent between November and December 2021 during the Omicron surge, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. Medical claim lines rose by 0.5 percent from 4.4 to 4.9 Althought there is an increase in telehealth during the pandemic, a report from the same organization from November 2021 finds that 38 percent of people, out of 1,000 polled, would not consider using telehealth following the COVID-19 pandemic.

(03/08/22) How the VA Laid the Groundwork for a Pandemic-fueled Telehealth Spike
This article from Healthcare IT News highlights how the United States Department of Veterans Affairs worked to prepare for and scale up to meet demand of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some legislative work from as early as 2017 enabled the Department of Veterans Affairs to respond to the need for remote access to health care in thousand-fold usage increases.

(03/07/22) Telehealth Use Increased Amid Omicron as 2021 Drew to a Close
New data shows there was an 11% increase in telehealth use from November 2021 to December 2021 as cases of COVID-19 surged due to the Omicron variant, based on analysis of claims data. COVID-19 remained among the most common telehealth diagnoses throughout the US.

(03/05/22) CMS Greenlights Teletherapy and Signals Support for Future Telehealth Services
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revised its approach to telehealth services. In the CY 2022 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule published in November 2021, CMS responded to the steep increase in the use of telehealth during the pandemic by announcing two regulatory changes to promote wider use of telehealth: extended reimbursement timeframe and relaxed criteria for mental health disorders.

(02/20/22) AMA, Manatt Health Present Solutions for Digital Access to Behavioral Health
In collaboration with Manatt Health, the AMA published a new report outlining the opportunities and challenges of using telehealth and other digital technologies to expedite the adoption of behavioral health integration BHI. This new paper, “Accelerating Behavioral Health Integration Through Telehealth,” identifies key stakeholders, core values of BHI, and finally proposes a conceptual framework for fostering digitally enabled BHI.

(02/14/2022) Telehealth Use Dropped to 8% in 2021
New data shows there was a 13 percent increase in telehealth during the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the numbers have decreased 8 percent in 2021. The analyzed data is from the Epic COSMOs, A HIPAA-defined limited data set of over 120 million patients.

(02/10/22) Outpatient Telehealth Use Soared Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic but has Since Receded
While use of telehealth in outpatient settings has decreased from an all-time high seen in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, its use remains well above pre-pandemic levels. A new report from KFF and Epic Research offers analysis of this and other changes in telehealth use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(01/18/22) Health Systems Make COVID-19 Telehealth Expansion Plans With FCC Grants
Two large health systems have received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants to increase access to COVID-19 telehealth services for their patient populations. The 2.2 million grant to Mercy and Tampa General Hospital from the FCC is for patients in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The grant will go towards purchasing telemedicine carts and monitors to help better communicate virtually with caregivers and patients.

(01/14/22) Research Explores How Scammers Take Advantage of COVID-19
This article, published in Stanford Medicine’s Scope blog, highlights some ways the emergency regulations meant to improve access to care at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have been manipulated to cause billions of dollars in fraudulent health care expenses. Providers billing for telehealth visits that never happened as well as prescribing unnecessary treatments are among the many fraudulent activities reported.

(01/12/22) COVID-19’s Influence on Information and Communication Technologies in Long-term Care: Results From a Web-based Survey With Long-term Care Administrators
COVID-19 in the United States has led to lockdowns for long-term care (LTC) facilities, resulting in loss of in-person contact with social ties for LTC residents. A new study examining ICT access and use in LTC facilities during the pandemic found that over half of the LCT facilities surveyed were able to acquire ICTs for their residents to use during the pandemic.

(01/10/22) Telehealth Use Reached Pandemic Low in October, per Tracker
Telehealth use reached a COVID-19 pandemic low in October, according to date from non profit New Health. After months of decline followed by two months of growth in August and September, telehealth utilization dropped almost 7 percent in October in all US regions except the Northeast, which has seen a large increase of hospital admissions and COVID cases in the fall and winter months.

(01/05/22) Many States Hit Hard by COVID-19 Limit Telehealth Practice, Report Finds
This article covers a new report finding that states such as California, New York, and Washington retained barriers to providing remote care even as they dealt with high cases of COVID-19. Following initial regulatory flexibility on the provision of telehealth services, states returned to piecemeal regulation, with some states joining compacts allowing for care across state lines and others retaining barriers for providers outside of the state.

(01/05/22) Federal Government Asks for Examples of Digital Health Use During the Pandemic
The White House Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) wants input from “community health stakeholders, technology developers, and other interested parties about how digital health technologies are used, or could be used in the future, to transform community health, individual wellness, and health equity. OSTP says they are looking for “information about: successful models of strengthening community health through digital health technologies within the United States and abroad, barriers to uptake, trends from the COVID-19 pandemic, how user experience is measured, need for tools and training, ideas for potential government action, and effects on health equity.” Responses are due to the OSTP by March 5.

(12/30/21) Telehealth Utilization in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Current State of Medical Provider Training
The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase of telehealth utilization, as well as a need for telehealth education and training support. This article examines a national survey sent to organizational representatives evaluating the current state of telehealth. Questions are related to education and training. The survey found that 30 percent of organizations reported no telehealth training before the pandemic. Respondents in suburban/rural settings were less likely to provide any training (55% vs. 82%) compared with urban. 78 percent of organizations reported pandemic-related training changes.

(12/10/21) Telehealth User Experiences During COVID-19: A Case Study of Outpatient Cardiovascular Clinics Affiliated With a Large Academic Practice
New research published in the American Journal of Accountable Care studies the user experience of patients accessing telehealth services from an outpatient cardiovascular clinic. The study found that barriers to successful telehealth use for patients were related to using the technology, whereas practitioners struggled with obtaining diagnostic information necessary for care. Patients, however, planned to continue using telehealth services.

(12/10/21) US Reps Introduce Bill to Ensure Permanent Access to Telehealth
A bipartisan bill endorsed by multiple telehealth advocacy groups has been introduced to the United States House of Representatives Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. The focus of the legislation is to allow access to telehealth regardless of location by lifting Medicare’s geographic and site restrictions on the services, something temporarily allowed in COVID-19 emergency response legislation.

(12/07/21) COVID-19 Drops Out of Top Telehealth Diagnoses in September Even as Virtual Care Use Rises
The use of telehealth has recently been rising following initial drops in utilization earlier in 2021, however COVID-19 diagnoses have fallen from the top-5 most diagnosed conditions.

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