What Texas’ landmark telemedicine legislation means for the industry and the nation

Texas became the last state in the country to abolish a requirement that the relationship between patient and physician must be started with an in-person visit prior to the use of telemedicine. Governor Greg Abbott signed the landmark legislation on May 27, 2017, paving the way for patients to gain access to the services that telemedicine can offer them.

Texas Demonstrates a Great Need for Telemedicine

Texas seems like an unlikely state to be the last one to sign such a bill. As a state that sprawls over 268,000 square miles, and whose population is dispersed widely, Texas has a great deal of rural poverty with few healthcare services available. In fact, the state ranks 46th when it comes to the number of primary care doctors per capita. There are also 35 counties scattered throughout the state that don’t have a family physician to serve the population, making Texas the ideal market for telemedicine expansion.

Barriers to the Expansion of Telemedicine                                           

Even though telemedicine had already been practiced for several years prior, the Texas Medical Board began restricting its use in 2010. The board cited a prescribing rule, which mandated that physicians must establish a relationship with patients via an in-person visit prior to utilizing telemedicine’s services. Court cases ensued, with litigation dragging on for years.

Governor Abbott’s Action Ends Telemedicine Issue

With Governor Abbott’s signature on Senate Bill 1107 and House Bill 2697, the people of Texas can now access the convenience and expertise of board-certified physicians without unnecessary red tape. This welcome decision brings access to much-needed healthcare to citizens across the state.

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4 Signs Your Staff Needs TeleStroke Tech Relief

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On-call services are vitally important for critical health systems like TeleStroke programs, where time is of the essence. Hospital administrators, emergency department staff and stroke coordinators must have a way to instantly connect and coordinate. Current technology makes this type of connection possible.

Here are four signs that your staff needs the latest generation of TeleStroke tech relief.

Bottlenecks in Patient Flow

If the facilities always seem to be overbooked with no relief for new intakes, you will definitely need to invest in a system that gets rid of patient flow bottlenecks. Faster on call services lead to quicker diagnoses and a more even patient count.

Slow Health IT

EHR (electronic health records) usage peaked in 2015 (62.8 percent) with a slight downturn of use last year (59 percent). That leaves a whopping 41 percent still not using the latest technology for their patients. Slower records mean slower treatments and slower receipt of on-call services. If your health IT does not match the speed of the modern generation, upgrading should be a priority.

Communication Between Departments

If patients are slow to receive on-call services, the communication between your departments may need an improvement. The older a population surrounding a hospital, the faster this communication must be in order to maintain healthy movement of patients. Patients should not be required to remember their own records; records should be easily transferrable between departments and referenced during a call.

Complaints With On Call Service

The most telling symptom that your staff may need tech relief is direct complaints from patients about on call service. Upgrading a system from front to back is the best way to avoid on call patients falling victim to preventable problems in transport and intake.

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Telehealth Index: 2017 Consumer Survey

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The world of telehealth is growing rapidly all across the country. According to one study, more than half of all hospitals in the United States have currently implemented some type of telehealth or telemedicine program.

Technology devoted to this concept, which was valued at roughly $18 billion in 2014, is expected to grow at a rate of over 18 percent between now and 2020. Another study predicts that telehealth will service roughly 7 million patients by as soon as 2018, up from just 350,000 patients in 2013

The Telehealth Index 2017 Consumer Survey (Read the entire report)

consumer-survey-imageThese sentiments and others are echoed in the Telehealth Index 2017 Consumer Survey, recently released by American Well. The survey itself is the result of two polls – both of which were conducted by Harris Poll – that included responses from over 4,000 adults.

The results of the survey shed important light on a number of core concepts, including:

  • Patients are no longer skeptical about telehealth. Sixty-five (65) percent of those who responded to Harris Poll said that they would be interested in seeing their primary care physician via video visits.
  • Telehealth could relieve stress from other areas of the healthcare industry. Twenty (20) percent of respondents said that they would choose a video visit over visiting the emergency room for late night care.
  • 52 percent of respondents said that they would be willing to use telehealth for post-surgical follow-ups, or for additional care after a hospital stay.
  • 60 percent of respondents said that they would be willing to meet with their primary care physician over video to help manage a chronic condition, something that one out of every two adults in the United States has as of 2017.

Thanks to sources like the Telehealth Index 2017 Consumer Survey, one thing is abundantly clear: Telehealth in general is becoming increasingly important in terms of healthcare in this country, both in terms of the live saving care that professionals are able to provide and with regards to the willing patients who are ready and waiting to receive it.

Get in touch with us below to see how TeleSpecialists can be a benefit to you.

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Survey: Telehealth Increases Access to Care, Continuity

Michael Laff Minneapolis – November 11, 2015 04:12 pm

Your patients depend on you for the best medical care, and thanks to technology, they don’t necessarily need to visit your office to receive it.

As more family physicians begin using telehealth systems, speakers at the AAFP State Legislative Conference, held here Nov. 6-7, discussed how the technology can enhance patient care and sharedfindings from a survey(www.graham-center.org)(22 page PDF) of family physicians’ thoughts about and use of telehealth.

Researchers at the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care said 15 percent of the 1,557 physicians who responded to the survey reported using telehealth in the past year. The survey contains some bias because respondents were more likely to use telemedicine, explained Megan Coffman, M.S., a health policy administrator for the Robert Graham Center who presented the research.

Respondents said the technology’s strongest points are improving access to care and providing continuity of care. Obstacles they cited included the cost of equipment, lack of training and potential liability.

A profile of the typical telehealth user emerged as one who:

  • is more likely to be practicing in a rural area (76 percent),
  • works with six or more family physicians (40 percent) and
  • uses electronic health records (98 percent).

When physicians were asked how they used telehealth, the leading responses were diagnosis or treatment (55 percent), chronic disease management (26 percent) and patient followup (21 percent). Physicians, whether they use telehealth or not, agreed that the technology improves access to and continuity of care. The question of whether it reduces cost has not been answered.

“There is not enough data on whether telemedicine saves money,” said Coffman. “That is yet to be seen. From a patient perspective, it saves time and money, but there is not enough information.”

Telehealth systems are good for increasing efficiency, said William Thornbury, M.D., R.Ph., the founder of an online appointment site called meVisit.(www.mevisit.com)

“We take 60 patents per day at the clinic,” said Thornbury, who also serves as medical director at the Medical Associate Clinic in Glasgow, Ky. “I can’t take any new patients. The real problem is 30 percent of my patients don’t need to be in the clinic, but the only way to get paid is to see them there. ”

meVisit’s telehealth application, available on mobile phones and computers, is designed to allow physicians to address minor health problems that do not require an office visit. Patients can select a reason for a consult from a menu or type it in themselves, and they can upload photos.

Thornbury said family physicians should consider telemedicine because retail health clinics are doing so. Walgreens plans to launch a telehealth mobile application in 25 states starting in January 2016.

“How is our health system going to compete in this arena?” Thornbury asked.

Thornbury said most patients pay a $37 copay for telemedicine visits. One of the concerns among insurers is that ease of access could lead to frequent, unnecessary consults, but Thornbury suggested that copays could be raised to solve that problem, should it arise.

States are beginning to recognize the value of telemedicine and are requiring insurers to do the same. Montana, for instance, passed a law requiring insurers to pay for telemedicine on terms equal to those for office visits.

As the medical profession moves to greater efficiency with an emphasis on reducing costs, Thornbury said family physicians should press hard for fair payment.

“Radiologists are benefiting from new technology that allows them to work faster, and they are not being asked to take less money,” he said. “Why are we being penalized for it? If we are more efficient and take on more liability, care is care is care.”

Related AAFP News Coverage
Gauging the Promise and Perils of Telemedicine
AAFP Calls for Adequate Payment, Fewer Restrictions

(6/24/2014)

Robert Graham Center Forum
Telemedicine Can Build Bridge to Expanded Health Care, Say Panelists

(2/5/2014)

More From AAFP
Member Interest Group: Telehealth

Family Practice Management: Should You Treat Your Patients Virtually?

Link to original article on AAFP

Walgreens’ Telehealth Grows As We Warm To Digital Doctors

By: , November 12, 2015, 2:48 PM

It has also updated and improved the app, which provides round-the-clock access to MDLive’s network of U.S. board-certified doctors.

“Walgreens app-based approach is different than CVS’ in-store telehealth offering, and we’re still waiting to see what Walmart will do when it begins to roll out its option, but it’s clear telemedicine is gaining rapid acceptance,” says Jonathan Linkous, CEO of American Telemedicine Association, based in Washington, D.C. “We’ve seen more growth in the last two years than we have in the previous 20.”

Two years ago, he says, consumers had 800,000 tele-consultations with doctors, and that’s increased to 1.2 million this year. The biggest use is for urgent-care consultations with primary-care doctors, followed by mental health. And he expects a growth rate of at least 20% to 25% next year. “That’s pretty rapid, but it’s still only a drop in the bucket compared to its potential.”

“We have seen that telehealth solutions play an important role in helping to improve patient outcomes,” says Adam Pellegrini, Walgreens VP of digital health, in its release, “and we will continue to work to evolve our offerings to ensure our patients can choose what’s most convenient for them, whether that’s live doctor consultations, digitally chatting with a pharmacist or visiting a Healthcare Clinic.”

At its Minute Clinics, CVS uses telehealth to help handle patient overflow during busy times, giving customers the option of stepping into a private room for a tele-consult rather than waiting. In a recent study, it found that 95% of patients said they were highly satisfied with the quality of care and ease of use. One-third even said they preferred a telehealth visit to having a clinician in the same room.

For consumers, telehealth offers convenience and often a much lower cost than an in-office or even in-clinic visit. But Linkous says telehealth is also gaining traction because so many doctors and providers, who have been required to build elaborate patient portals, would like to offer it on their own platforms.

In a sign that Americans are cozying up to the idea of seeing a doctor via smartphone, Walgreens says it is expanding its partnership with MDLive to an additional 20 states. The retailer, which began testing the service back in December in California and Michigan, expanded to five states in June.

Link to original article in Media Post