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Insights Report ~ Federal Telehealth Action, Medicare Telehealth Usage, Managing Chronic Illnesses, and More!

New Bipartisan Legislation Would Preserve Federal Telehealth PoliciesHealthcare IT News

Members of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health have introduced a bill that would extend federal telehealth policies established during the COVID-19 pandemic for an additional two years. The Telehealth Extension Act would also end geographic and site restrictions on approved telemedicine services for Medicare beneficiaries.

Over the past two years, emergency waivers to accommodate telehealth transformed the healthcare industry. Although the added flexibility is broadly popular, Congress still needs to enact an extension or make the policies permanent before they expire.

The bill goes a step further and allows federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, Indian Health Service facilities, and Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems to provide telehealth services. It would also authorize several specialties to provide telehealth services, including speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.

HHS: Medicare Telehealth Skyrocketed During the PandemicMedical Design & Outsourcing

A study from HHS looked at Medicare fee-for-service data from 2019 and 2020 and found a 63-fold increase in telehealth use throughout the pandemic.

Key findings:

  • Virtual behavioral health saw the highest increase in telehealth usage, at 32-fold.
  • People in urban areas were more likely to use telehealth than rural residents.
  • Black Medicare beneficiaries were less likely to use telehealth than white counterparts.
  • 840,000 virtual visits occurred in 2019, and 52.7 million occurred in 2020 during the pandemic.
  • States with the highest telehealth use: Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.
  • States with the lowest telehealth use: Tennessee, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Telehealth Significantly Helps Type 2 Diabetes mHealth Intelligence

Telehealth is an effective resource for managing type 2 diabetes in adults, according to a review of trials that were comparing it with in-person care. There are roughly 463 million diabetes cases around the world, of which type 2 patients represent 90 percent.

Australian researchers compiled a set of 29 studies for a metanalysis. Of the 29 studies weighing telehealth against in-person visits, 17 used telemonitoring, 10 studies used mHealth (mobile health) devices, three employed telephone communication, two used virtual conferencing, and one leveraged video education tools. Some studies used more than one telehealth method to help patients manage their condition.

The highlights:

Nine of the 17 studies using remote patient monitoring saw a significant reduction in A1C (blood glucose) levels compared to in-person patients. The other eight studies saw a decrease in outpatient ER visits and hospitalizations. Four out of the 10 studies that used mHealth devices saw a significant reduction in A1C levels when compared to in-person patients. The other six saw improvements in quality of life.

View the full study here.

Study Show Success of Video-Based Telemedicine for Patients with Chronic Kidney DiseaseHealthLeaders

Telemedicine matches in-person care in terms of quality of outcomes when treating patients living with chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity in Toronto and the Ontario-based University Health Network. The researchers analyzed 24 telehealth studies published in 10 countries between 1997 and 2020.

In addition to improving patient outcomes, telemedicine platforms helped improve clinical workflows. The researchers also found that CKD telehealth programs are using consumer-based technology and devices (including wearables) to increase access for people who have difficulty getting to a clinic or hospital.

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