This Spring has already provided a lot of exciting and positive happenings in the world of telehealth, and The Virtual Care Blog staff has curated some of the top stories from the past few weeks in this quick read report.
The full Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra’s cabinet nomination to become The Health and Human Services Secretary, which, according to HealthcareIT News, is a positive move for the telehealth industry because of his support of connected health. “Secretary Becerra’s support for digital health tools and services’ increased use will be critical as we continue the fight against COVID-19 and to bring the best healthcare available to all Americans, particularly those in underserved communities,” Connected Health Initiative executive director Morgan Reed said in a statement. In his confirmation hearings in Feb., Becerra stated, “If we don’t learn from COVID how telehealth can help save lives, then we’re in trouble.”
According to mHealthIntelligence U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is proposing setting aside almost $80 billion to expand high-speed broadband services across the country. This effort would address the main barrier to telehealth expansion. It would improve access to healthcare services — as well as schooling, business, and entertainment resources — for the estimated 18 million Americans who don’t have high-speed internet. This bill will include enough resources to make sure that all Americans, no matter their zip code, have access to a “future proof” broadband connection.
The American Board of Telehealth (ABT) will offer discounted access to its telemedicine-focused classes to American Telemedicine Association (ATA) members. HealthcareIT News says members of the ATA will receive discounted access to the ABT’s certificate programs. ABT will also offer a behavioral telehealth certificate and a primary telehealth certificate in the coming weeks, which may be used for Continuing Medical Education or Continuing Nursing Education credits.
With a marked increase in virtual care use amid the COVID-19 pandemic, several strategies can continue to evolve its effectiveness and adoption. These include addressing disparities in usage among older populations and underserved communities, as well as improving home monitoring and interoperability, said Mike Funk, vice president of Humana’s office of the chief medical officer in an interview conducted by the American Journal of Managed Care. Delving into the study, 97% of medical practices reported a drop in patient volumes in early April 2020, with safety cited as the major reason for deferring care.
Jefferson Health’s Digital Onboarding Taskforce (DOT) gives providers an opportunity to talk to patients and understand why they’re reluctant or unable to access telehealth, reports mHealthIntelligence. The DOT launched last September by Kristin Rising, MD, and Rosie Frasso, Ph.D., and aims to take a closer look at what’s keeping patients from using telehealth. Because much of the health system was dealing with surges brought on by the pandemic, Rising and Frasso populated the DOT with more than 30 students pursuing medical or public health degrees. Starting with surveys and screenings, the task force identifies who would benefit from using telehealth and determines how much help they’d need adapting to the technology. They found that while the students are helping patients get used to the technology — in some ways giving them the confidence to manage their own health — they’re also chatting about other things. These conversations can also lead to more interactions between patients and providers, offering them a better idea of the challenges patients face in accessing healthcare, often called social determinants of health. This, in turn, may allow providers to use connected health to address those challenges.
The National Law Review released an article about The Joint Commission’s recently announced changes to its accreditation rules to enable more hospitals and telemedicine companies to use the streamlined “credentialing by proxy” process. Distant site telemedicine entities must be accredited with The Joint Commission or enrolled in the Medicare program. Previously, the rules required both the originating site hospital and the distant site entity to be accredited with The Joint Commission. That requirement of dual-accreditation was exclusively created by The Joint Commission and was not mandated by the CMS Medicare regulations.
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