CHICAGO – AVIA, a network of health care organizations committed to transforming care through digital innovation, has received the 2018 Award for Advancing Telehealth by Innovation from The Partnership for a Connected Illinois, in partnership with the American Telemedicine Association. AVIA connects more than 35 health systems across the U.S., including Illinois members Advocate Aurora Health, Edward-Elmhurst Health, Northwestern Medicine, OSF HealthCare, and Rush University Medical Center. “At AVIA, our goal is to make health care better through digital transformation,” said Linda Finkel, president of AVIA, in a statement. “For many of our members, that means powering up their telehealth capabilities by scaling best-of-breed innovations to improve care delivery and patient access. We’re privileged to be entrusted with that work and thrilled with this recognition.” AVIA will receive the award during the 2018 Awards for Excellence in Telehealth Leadership luncheon this month.
‘This is an important step toward full reimbursement’
WASHINGTON – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized a rule last week that will allow home health agencies to report the cost of remote patient monitoring for reimbursement under Medicare, an announcement that was met with optimism by the industry.
“This is a good start by CMS,” said Rob Tennant, health IT policy director for the Medical Group Management Association, a nonprofit association for professionals who lead medical practices. “We’ve been advocating for this technology for many, many years.”
The final changes to the Home Health Prospective Payment System allows home health care providers to include the costs of remote monitoring technology into the costs of Medicare cost report forms. Seema Verma, CMS administrator, said in a statement that this will help foster the adoption of emerging technologies by home health agencies and result in more effective care planning.
The new rule, to be implemented in 2020, is a step in the right direction for home health care, said Chris McCann, CEO of Snap40, providers of a wearable device that captures vital signs and other health information.
“With the finalized rule CMS is continuing to focus on incentivizing home health agencies to innovate,” he said. “In particular, they have now defined remote patient monitoring in regulation and it will now be included on cost reports. This is an important step toward full reimbursement for remote patient monitoring and it demonstrates its clinical and economic importance.”
Last year, CMS made changes to allow physicians to bill for services related to remote patient monitoring, but home health agencies could not bill for those services. The new rule closes that gap.
“The ability for providers to get paid for remote patient monitoring allows for more efficiencies, reduces some of the barriers and will hopefully advance innovations,” said Asif Shah Mohammed, a consultant with health care consulting firm ECG Management Consultants. “With remote patient monitoring, patients can share more real-time information so clinicians can tailor patient care.”
The CMS final rule also establishes Medicare payment for technology-based communication services like brief virtual check-ins between patients and physicians, and separate payment for evaluation of remote pre-recorded images and/or video.
NEW YORK – MediSprout’s V2MD telehealth platform will now integrate with Amazon Alexa for patient scheduling and Withings for integration with its wireless blood pressure monitor. These integrations will allow patients to schedule video appointments with their physician’s offices through simple voice commands and to share blood pressure information. “Telehealth is the fastest growing technology in the health care space because it allows physicians to use their time more wisely,” said Dr. Samant Virk, founder and CEO of MediSprout, in a statement. “By leveraging video calls to fill late or canceled appointments and schedule after-hour and follow up calls, the doctor’s office has created efficiencies and enabled better overall care while turning callbacks and traditionally non-billable time into a new source of revenue.” MediSprout’s V2MD is a secure two-way video communication solution that connects doctors with their own patients.
Advances in telehealth and remote patient monitoring, as well as the demands of the patient-consumer, are creating a seismic shift in healthcare delivery— most noticeably in the shift to outpatient care. With the right technology and infrastructure, physicians can care for many patients remotely and perform interventional procedures from their clinics or at imaging centers, micro hospitals and special surgery centers. The intersection of new technology and the patient-consumer is driving health care offerings to become more diversified, while delivering enhanced care at a lower cost.
According to Berg Insight, an estimated 36.1 million patients will be remotely monitored by 2020. Coupled with the proliferation of telehealth as a means to better triage patients and expand the reach of health care in remote locations, telehealth and remote patient monitoring are facilitating the shift to outpatient care and decentralizing the delivery of health care. The shift to distributed health care does not imply disparate health care, as the opposite holds true. Care coordination and communication must be synchronized and tests, procedures and results have to be available to everyone in the chain of outpatient care. Duplication is minimized and the most up-to-date patient information is shared from one branch of outpatient care to another quickly and efficiently.
Here, real-time remote medical monitoring forms the backbone of outpatient care. When patient data is collected in real-time and stored on the cloud, physicians from various points of care can access this information. Combined with a patient’s medical history, which can also be stored on the cloud, physicians and care centers are better equipped to offer faster, more accurate diagnoses. Long-term and near-continuous monitoring also aids in better detection of early warning signs in an illness, resulting in decreased patient hospital admission rates and early intervention. After a diagnosis or a procedure, patients can be kept under observation with real-time remote monitoring, receiving effective treatment in outpatient facilities if further care becomes necessary.
Patients today are consumers; they insist on having options and making informed decisions in matters concerning their own healt care. The shift to outpatient care caters to the patient-consumer because it aims to offer patients options that can give them convenient access to the closest location that can care for them. Many patients can’t afford high-deductible plans and out-of-pocket spending for people with employer-provided health insurance has increased by more than 50% since 2010, according to human resources consultant Aon Hewitt. Building services in convenient locations that have an affordable price point is a key goal in the shift to outpatient care. Informed patients with options are engaged patients, and engaged patients take a more proactive role in the management of their own health.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently proposed to shift outpatient surgical and “surgical-like” (interventional) procedures out of more expensive hospitals to lower-cost ambulatory surgery centers, instituting site-neutral payments for clinic visits under Medicare. This would give physicians and ambulatory clinics a competitive edge and encourage patient-driven health care. Already effective as of January 1, CMS has unbundled CPT code 99091 to enable eligible practitioners to receive separate reimbursement for time that is spent on collecting and interpreting remote patient health data that is digitally stored and transmitted to a provider. By recognizing remote patient monitoring services for separate payment, CMS has encouraged widespread implementation of medical-grade remote monitoring solutions for outpatient care. This is a good move for all parties involved because when health care, reimbursement and technology systems are aligned, outpatient care can provide better health care for patients while driving significant cost savings.
Waqaas Al-Siddiq is the founder and CEO of Biotricity, a biometric remote monitoring solutions company.
SOMERSET, N.J. – MTBC, a provider of cloud-based health care IT and practice management solutions, is partnering with Salus, a telehealth provider, to market and sell each other’s products. “We are excited to be able to introduce MTBC’s solutions to many of our clients,” said Paula Guy, president of Salus Telehealth, in a statement. The partnership is intended to spark innovation and additional sales by maximizing product development talents and resources at both companies, while driving scale and efficiency in their respective services. “We look forward to introducing our solutions to Salus’ users and also believe that the Salus solution will be a great fit for some of our hospital customers and larger groups,” said Al Nardi, vice president of strategic initiatives for MTBC, in a statement.
‘Getting everybody connected would be a game changer’
BOSTON – Ajit Pai’s top priority as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is to close the digital divide and increase broadband connections to allow for more telehealth.
“The technology that’s available right now can help everyone,” he said at last week’s Connected Health Conference. “Getting everybody connected and promoting adoption of current tools by both doctors and patients would be a game changer.”
Pai announced at last week’s event that the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program, which helps health care providers afford the connectivity they need to better serve patients, will see its annual funding cap increase from $400 million to $571 million for funding year 2017.
Pai also said the FCC expects to fully fund all single-year funding requests from participating rural health care providers from the Rural Health Care Program in 2018.
“Every rural clinic or hospital seeking to lower its cost of service for this next year is eligible for full funding,” he said.
Additionally, Pai said the FCC is looking to the future as it examines connectivity. He encouraged last week’s audience to provide input on the agency’s Connected Care Pilot Program, which was announced in August. The $100 million program will promote the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services among low-income families and veterans.
“Our thinking is that patients would benefit from services delivered directly in their homes—such as sensor-based remote monitoring—instead of just brick-and-mortar health care facilities,” Pai said.
Next-generation wireless networks, or 5G, will also be a key to unlocking the promise of connected health and the Internet of Things in the future, Pai said. To that end, the FCC is pursuing the 5G FAST plan, a strategy to spur deployment.
“Promoting connected health doesn’t just mean helping to fill today’s connectivity gaps,” he said. “It also means promoting the technologies of tomorrow.”
NEW YORK – Telehealth provider TytoCare has received CE Mark approval for its end-to-end telehealth solution. The clearance will allow the company to roll out the connected system, which includes an otoscope, stethoscope, camera and telehealth platform, immediately in Europe. “Receiving CE Mark approval is an important milestone for TytoCare and a major step in our continued strategic expansion into Europe and other new markets,” said Dedi Gilad, CEO and co-founder of TytoCare, in a statement. “European doctors are struggling to keep up with the increasing medical demand of an aging population and the rise of chronic illnesses. Tyto is uniquely positioned to ease this burden by replicating the quality of in-person doctor visits without any barriers to access such as transportation and wait time.” The roll out will take place through partnerships with telehealth companies, health systems and insurance providers. TytoCare received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its connected system in 2017. Exam data can be shared with a clinician in real-time as a live video telehealth visit or in advance of a telehealth session for a remote diagnosis.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Premier HealthVue is partnering with Reliq Health Technology to provide mobile and telehealth technology to Permier’s Health Vue primary care clinics. Reliq will provide the clinics with a HealthVue-branded telehealth, remote monitoring and artificial intelligence solution for its clinical staff and more than 100,000 active patients. “We look forward to helping HealthVue establish themselves as a technology leader in primary care,” said Dr. Lisa Crossley, CEO of Reliq Health Technologies, in a statement. “Incorporating Reliq’s technology platform into their clinics will allow HealthVue to improve access to care and convenience for patients, supporting HealthVue’s goal of rapidly increasing their patient numbers and practice revenues.” The HealthVue patient app powered by Reliq Health’s technology platform will allow patients to book appointments, see their primary care physician or a specialist through telehealth appointments, review their own chart, communicate with clinic staff and pharmacists, refill prescriptions and share health data collected in the home with their HealthVue care team, said Dr. Essam Hamza, CEO of HealthVue, in a statement.
MORRISVILLE, Vt. – Copley Hospital, in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Connected Care, is expanding Copley’s telehealth services to include TeleNephrology and TelePulmonology, in addition to TeleRheumatology. The partnership brings together D-H specialists and Copley’s patients through telehealth technology to provide evaluations, follow-up exams and recommendations for relevant therapies or interventions. These specialty services use live, two-way secure video on large format, high-definition mobile carts in the Multi-Specialty Clinic at Copley Hospital. “Copley and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Connected Care share a commitment to improve access to needed care,” said Vera Jones, COO at Copley Hospital, in a statement. “Our TeleRheumatology service started earlier this year, and now we can help meet the needs of patients living with kidney and respiratory diseases and conditions by removing barriers to access. This type of collaboration is efficient, effective and necessary to help build a healthier Vermont.” TeleNephrology and TelePulmonology will start in October.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – 1Minuut Innovation has launched a mobile platform designed to enhance communication between telehealth patients and providers built around Vuzix’s smart glasses. The combination of the Vuzix M300 smart glasses and the Genzõ mobile platform enables real-time audio, first person point-of-view video streaming and file sharing that is mobile and safe. “1Minuut’s Genzõ’s mobile platform is unique and provides a new innovative and reliable method to connect patients, bring positive experiences and enable patients to watch through the eyes of others from anywhere,” said Paul Travers, president and CEO of Vuzix, in a statement. “1Minuut is trailblazing the health care industry through the creation of their Genzõ mobile platform that was built around our M300 Smart Glasses to deliver new experiences that improve the quality and speed of care, as well as the appreciation of life for patients.” The 1Minuut Genzõ mobile platform delivers telehealth patient care services remotely and hands-free by connecting a doctor in the field to a nurse and patient in the doctor’s office or patient facility. Through the M300 and Genzõ mobile platform, caregivers are instantly connected to a doctor that can observe a patient and provide immediate feedback or care instruction.