2018 Telehealth Industry Happenings Wrap Up

Posted by Andy Edwards | December 28, 2018 |

As we close out 2018, the OrthoLive Team would like to wish you Happy Holidays. We’ve had quite a journey over the past year and we appreciate your being part of the growth of our phenomenal product.

In 2018 we worked hard to spread the message that telehealth technology is a secure and clinically effective method for expanding healthcare to our patients. But the industry expanded in 2018 right along with the reach of our service line. We’re grateful that telehealth is becoming more mainstream, as organizations like the American Hospital Association recognize the value of the virtual visit.

Before we move into 2019, lets take a final look at the month-by-month high points in the telemedicine industry.

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Telemedicine Industry Happenings Recap – 2018

“Telehealth increasingly is vital to our health care delivery system, enabling health care providers to connect with patients and consulting practitioners across vast distances.”
American Hospital Association

January

In January, the year kicked off with implementation of 11 laws in nine states with an impact on telemedicine. Some examples included:

  • Arkansas defined the professional relationship between patient and physician within a telemedicine visit.
  • California opened the door to telepharmacies by setting up new requirements for the service.
  • Montana’s new law required insurance companies to reimburse for teledentistry.
  • Texas law now defines telemedicine and defines the patient-provider relationship within the virtual visit.
  • Washington’s law eliminated the traditional hurdles of telehealth originating site restrictions by opening the door to delivery of care from anywhere.

February

In February, HIMSS 2018 had a plethora of conference sessions on telehealth including implementation strategies, regulatory reviews, case studies, and much more.

A case study from Kaiser Permanente Colorado came out in February extolling the virtues of their program called “Chat with a Doctor.” The service allows patients to upload photos and text their doctor, chatting without video. The organization found that two-thirds of all patient encounters could be solved directly during the chat encounter. The program sees 100 to 200 patients each day.

March

In March, a new Accenture study showed that mobile health app adoption has tripled in the last four years. The study followed nearly 8,000 Americans and found 33% use wearables to monitor their health. They found 25% of the population has used telemedicine, a number that has increased from 2017; and 73% would use the service for after-hours care.

April

The big news in April came from the U.S. Senate, which passed the Opioid Crisis Act of 2018. The bill highlighted the importance of using telehealth in the fight against the opioid crisis. It specifically made it easier to use telehealth to prescribe using telemedicine for the patient encounter.

May

In May, the Connected Health Initiative, a consortium of healthcare providers, payers, vendors, and technology experts, submitted telemedicine policy recommendations to the White House. Chief among the suggestions was recommendations that reimbursement for telehealth expand under MACRA and Medicare, while reducing the number of restrictions on shared savings programs, APMs and for ACOs.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) lifted the state provider license requirements, allowing clinicians to offer telemedicine to beneficiaries anywhere in the country. Prior to the rule change, providers could only provide care via a virtual visit in states where they held a license.

The VA, an early adopter of telemedicine, reported that the technology reduced hospital admissions by 51%. The new rule is expected to increase their cost savings and have other far-reaching implications in the coming years.

To reach more about May’s industry happenings, click here.

June

The news broke in June that a Michigan radiology practice was having outstanding results with telehealth. The practice, Radiology Imaging Solutions, reported their cost per study was reduced by 70% and productivity increased 400%. The use of teleradiology has improved practice efficiency by reducing sturdy turnaroundtime by over 50%.

July

In July, Deloitte released their annual Survey of US Health Care Consumers and Physicians. The report studied consumer and physician attitudes toward telehealth. They had a number of significant findings, including:

  • 64% of healthcare consumers say the biggest benefits of telemedicine are the convenience and improved access to treatment.
  • 52% physicians report higher patient satisfaction scores with telehealth.
  • 45% of providers say telehealth helps them stay better connected with their patients.
  • 57% of patients say they would like to try telehealth.

Ironically, the study pointed out that physician reluctance to use the technology is just as thwarting to telehealth adoption as any reimbursement challenges that occur. But Deloitte also indicated that the research shows that once physicians try these tools they quickly become an advocate.

To read the full July industry wrap up, click here.

August

In August, CVS, a retail pharmacy chain of more than 9,000 stores nationwide, announced they were adding a telemedicine service line to their chain of MinuteClinics operating in these storefronts. These services are now available 24-hours a day and accessible on any digital device. The chain launched the service line based on beta testing that showed:

  • 95% of consumers using the service said they were highly satisfied with the quality of care experienced during the virtual visit.
  • 95% said they liked the convenience and overall experience of the virtual visit.

Intermountain Healthcare, an integrated system with 23-hospitals, 170 clinics, and a medical group with more than 2,300 employed physicians, joined CVS in launching their own telehealth service line that month. The healthcare system reported, “So far, some of the top results from deploying the virtual services across Intermountain have included reduced length-of-stay, decreased ER and urgent care visits, and improved mortality rates.”

To read the full story, click here.

September

September was a very busy month, with new legislation and guidelines for telehealth service offerings. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new guidelines for using virtual visits to provide medication-assisted therapies to help fight the opioid crisis.

New legislation was also introduced to eradicate the requirement that doctors have a pre-existing relationship with patients before using telehealth to treat patients with substance use disorders. A separate bill sought to eliminate the originating-site restrictions for telehealth found in the Social Security Act.

To find out more, click here.

October

At the end of October, CMS released their fee schedule and a liberal dose of changes to payment rules that had traditional not looked favorably on telehealth. The fee schedule changes included two new codes for remote monitoring of physiologic patient data as well as interactive communication between doctor and patient in a virtual visit. The ruling eliminated geographic originating site restrictions in treating mental health disorders.

To top off this exciting news, Apple announced a new phone app study to help knee and hip post-surgical patients. The app sends daily messages such as medication reminders or physical therapy instructions and seeks to improve patient engagement. The study hopes to sign up 10,000 patients.

To read more, click here.

November

In November, the Center for Connected Medicine released a new study that sought the opinions of IT teams and CIOs to find out what issues would be most important in the New Year. In addition to cybersecurity and interoperability, telehealth was top of mind. The study suggested that there was unanimous agreement in the CIO community that telehealth initiatives would expand in 2019.

December

In December, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City announced they increased telemedicine consults by 73% over the past five years. During the same time they increased the service lines offering telehealth from three to 30. Boasting a 98% patient satisfaction rate, they average 47 providers a month actively engaging with patients by using the technology.

Topics: "telemedicine", "telehealth", "reimbursement", orthopedic practice, 2019