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Permanent Expansion of Telehealth Services – A Silver Lining?

As of December 1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has permanently expanded the number of telehealth services available to Medicare beneficiaries and enrollees as part of the FY2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule (Final Rule). This historic expansion follows President Trump’s August 2020 Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access, and reflects one of the many ways that the COVID-19 public health crisis is permanently changing the delivery of important health care services in the U.S.

Historically, coverage for telehealth services through…

Congress Provides Nearly $7 Billion in New Broadband Funding in the Latest COVID-19 Stimulus Legislation

The historic $900 billion coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package deal that the President signed into law this past weekend – the second largest economic stimulus legislation ever produced by Congress – includes $7 billion in new funding for broadband-related purposes. Most of these funds will go to new programs seeking to narrow the digital divide by targeting resources to traditionally underserved communities. Additionally, a separate $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations legislation to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2021, includes numerous telecom-related provisions. Altogether, the massive $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding…

Telehealth Supporters See Little to Celebrate in Pandemic Relief Bill

The bill signed into law by President Trump before Christmas offers a few telehealth tidbits – including Medicare coverage for telemental health and rural hospitals and funding for broadband connectivity – but the criticism has so far outweighed the compliments.

By Eric Wicklund

January 04, 2021 – Telehealth advocates aren’t impressed with the lack of support for connected health services in the latest pandemic relief package.

While the $900 billion bill, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump shortly before Christmas, does include funding for…

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messages from a smartphone. With the push of the V.ALRT help button, your smartphone sends a personalized text message and GPS…

Why Telehealth and Continuous Remote Patient Monitoring Has Staying Power Beyond COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19 has caused an explosion in telehealth consultation and is catalyzing the use of remote patient monitoring (RPM) thanks to an acceleration of reimbursement from commercial and government health insurers (payers) during the pandemic.

Look no further than statistics from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that show telehealth visits during the pandemic surpassed 11 million through mid-September of this year.

Before CMS expanded coverage of telehealth for seniors in late March, there were about 15,000 Medicare beneficiaries a week with a “telemedicine visit.” The agency defines telemedicine as “Medicare telehealth, audio-only evaluation and management visits, virtual check-ins or e-visits.” Most of these visits were from rural areas before telehealth coverage…

Relief bill provisions complicate care for homebound patients

The $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Trump Dec. 27 offers Medicare coverage for telemental health and rural hospitals and funding for broadband connectivity, but criticism of the bill remains. The reason: the bill doesn’t extend the emergency telehealth access and the coverage provisions offered early on during the pandemic.

Lobbying to make at least some of those provisions permanent were the American Telemedicine Association, Alliance for Connected Care and Connected Health Initiative, some healthcare providers and dozens of lawmakers.

“The noticeable lack of permanent reform…

FCC Requests Public Comments for $250M COVID-19 Telehealth Program Round 2 Fund Distribution

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireline Competition Bureau announced Wednesday that it is requesting public comment for Round 2 distribution of an additional $249.95 million for its COVID-19 Telehealth Program; the Round 2 funding comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.

The FCC started the program in March 2020 with $200 million of CARES Act funding in order to help health care providers offer telehealth and other connected care services to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the FCC committed the $200…

The Future of Care Demands a Virtual Health Ecosystem

It’s no secret that telehealth use skyrocketed in the early stages of COVID-19 as both patients and health systems sought to minimize the risk of transmitting the disease.

According to data from the EHR vendor Epic Systems, telehealth visits peaked in mid-April, when they accounted for 69% of all ambulatory care visits. This percentage dropped substantially by mid-July, to 21% of total visits. However, it’s still miles ahead of the pre-pandemic levels of telehealth use. As health systems continue to care for patients with COVID-19 while developing strategies for the…

Seismic Shifts Occurring in Care Delivery

The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shifted our ideas about what is possible at home. Many people continue to work from home, others switched to virtual school, and the video chats with friends and family that became common last March remain a regular part of life.

The way we think about the delivery of health care has changed, too. In 2020, people took a fresh look at the home as the most appropriate setting for health care. But even before the pandemic, the care delivery pendulum was swinging toward more health care at home.

FCC gets $250M to relaunch COVID-19 telehealth program, seeks public input

The FCC is seeking advice on how to distribute the second round of its COVID-19 telehealth program, which recently received an additional $249.95 million in funds. 

The additional funding was finalized Dec. 27 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The money will support the COVID-19 telehealth program, which the FCC established last April to equip healthcare providers with telehealth technologies and implementation support during the pandemic. For the initial funding round, the FCC dispersed $200 million on a rolling basis to 539 funding applications from 47 states…

HHS expands COVID-19 public health emergency until April, preserving key telehealth flexibilities

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has extended the public health emergency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic until April, extending key waivers for regulations on a variety of topics such as telehealth.

The public health emergency declaration was originally scheduled to expire Jan. 21. HHS Secretary Alex Azar extended the emergency Thursday, according to a notice.

This is the fourth time HHS has expanded the emergency, with the last one occurring in October.

The emergency, first installed Jan. 31, 2020, launched a series of blanket…

CMS Revises 2021 Remote Patient Monitoring Rules, Issues Correction

CMS just issued a correction to its guidance on 2021 Medicare rules for remote physiologic monitoring (RPM) services. The correction is effective January 1, 2021 and revises the preamble commentary in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule, previously published on December 1, 2020. It adds language that was inadvertently deleted from the Final Rule, summarizing and responding some public comments. Here is a summary of the new changes:

20 Minutes of Time Includes, but Not Limited to, “Interactive Communication” with Patient

The required 20 minutes of…

2021 Could be a Busy Year for Telehealth Adoption and Sustainability

As the new year begins and the nation looks to tackle COVID-19 and move on, telehealth will be front and center in a lot of conversations from the halls of Congress to the patient’s home.

By Eric Wicklund

January 25, 2021 – Telehealth policy and new methods for connected care will figure prominently in healthcare during 2021, and Xtelligent Healthcare Media will be there to explore it.

In a special edition of our Healthcare Strategies podcast seriesXtelligent Healthcare Media’s editors laid out their plans for covering the topics and trends…

CMS Revises 2021 Remote Patient Monitoring Rules, Issues Correction

CMS just issued a correction to its guidance on 2021 Medicare rules for remote physiologic monitoring (RPM) services. The correction is effective January 1, 2021 and revises the preamble commentary in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule, previously published on December 1, 2020. It adds language that was inadvertently deleted from the Final Rule, summarizing and responding some public comments. Here is a summary of the new changes:

20 Minutes of Time Includes, but Not Limited to, “Interactive Communication” with Patient

The required 20 minutes…

Remote Patient Monitoring Goes Mainstream, And Healthcare Transformation Follows

Remote patient monitoring has finally gone mainstream. After more than two decades of cultivation – from cardiac telemetry to Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure cuffs and now to wearable devices – the technological progress of remote patient monitoring (RPM) has finally intersected with other trends in medicine such as telehealth (and of course COVID) to make this a normal, everyday practice. Will it remain that way? If it does, what will the impacts be?

The Current Inflection Point

First, let’s explore what makes this the time for RPM to have mass…

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