May 7, 2020
Only What Matters on Health Information Policy
As we continue with the new and agoraphobic normal that COVID-19 so unceremoniously foisted upon us, Maverick Health Policy is looking at the technology side of telehealth services.
Nearly half of all physicians are using telehealth technology now. Some experts think that developing a virtual practice is not so much about technology as it is about workflows and sheer willingness to take the plunge. See here, here.
Others give advice about a telehealth platform checklist, and emphasize interoperability and security requirements. The importance of sharing data is not a new concept in the telehealth world, see here, here, but it is a more popular concept lately, see here, here -- even among hospice and palliative care providers.
There are so many technology-enabled telehealth resources, that now we have lists: CTA-ATA Telehealth Technology Solutions Directory here, ask for the April issue of the Digital Health Highlights here, List of Telehealth apps here, Guide to Telehealth Vendors here, Remote Patient Monitoring Vendors here, OCR’s Non-Endorsement of Probably-HIPAA-Compliant Companies here.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
What has the federal government done to encourage telehealth services as we try to avoid in-person doctor visits during the pandemic? Hahahahaha. No, really, we do not have time that…this is supposed to be ONE thoughtful paragraph. If you want a snapshot of federal policy changes about telehealth during the COVID-19 emergency, go here, here, here or see this comprehensive Brookings paper. And while the new HHS website designed to help providers evaluate telehealth software vendors is helpful, and states can look to the CMS Telehealth Toolkit for insight, Maverick Health Policy is interested in how the federal government is helping to pay for telehealth technology. Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) telehealth funds. To date, we are up to 56 health care providers in 23 states that have received a total of $24.9 million under the FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program, and the agency is just getting started. The FCC has $300 million to spend -- $200M of CARES Act money -- on non-profit health care providers for telecommunication services, broadband connectivity, and devices to provide telehealth -- see FAQs. The FCC is also jump-starting its long-awaited Connected Care Pilot Program, a three-year, $100 million effort to expand telehealth and mHealth programs to benefit underserved populations, especially low-income residents and veterans. The published rule outlining both programs can be found here. Proof that these programs are both desirable and needed: the American Hospital Association filed a petition, and the Federation of American Hospitals added its support, asking the FCC to broaden the narrow set of entities that can apply for this funding.