House Lawmakers Unveil Bill To Boost Telehealth Coverage

We are following a story that was reported on that said that a bipartisan group of House lawmakers last week introduced a bill (HR 3306) that aims to expand telehealth coverage through Medicare and Medicaid.

The Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013 was introduced by Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

Among other things, the legislation would:

  • Adjust Medicare home health payments to account for remote patient monitoring;
  • Expand telehealth coverage to all critical access and sole community hospitals;
  • Cover home-based video services for hospice care, home dialysis and homebound Medicare beneficiaries; and
  • Allow state Medicaid programs to set up high-risk pregnancy networks.

The bill has been referred to the House committees on Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means. – To see more go to


ACA Creates ‘Perfect Storm’ for Potential Telemedicine Success

Telemedicine could prove instrumental in helping to keep healthcare costs stable as the Affordable Care Act takes hold, according to Mario Gutierrez, executive director for the Center for Connected Health Policy.

Gutierrez, who talked with Time about the potential for a mainstream breakthrough for telemedicine, said that as more and more patients obtain coverage, doctors subsequently will be stretched thin.

Last week, Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) introduced the TELEmedicine for MEDicare (TELE-MED) Act to the House, which would allow Medicare providers to treat patients electronically across state lines without having to obtain multiple state medical licenses.

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Bill Seeking To Boost Medicare Telehealth Introduced in House

A bill (HR 3077) introduced this week in the House would allow Medicare providers to treat patients across state lines using telehealth technology without having to obtain medical licenses in multiple states, FierceHealthIT reports.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — sponsor of the bill, called the Telemedicine for Medicare Act — said the measure accounts “for rapid technological advances in medicine” and reduces “bureaucratic and legal barriers between Medicare patients and their doctors.”

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S.C. Blues Plan Makes Major Initial Move Into Telemedicine, Covers Three Specialties

Health insurers armed with data to show that telemedicine can increase access to quality medical care and reduce costs by preventing unnecessary emergency room visits are gradually shifting coverage policies to allow reimbursement in selected specialties. A case in point is in South Carolina, where the state’s leading insurer by market share, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, in mid-August said it would start to cover telemedicine for use in high-risk pregnancies, strokes and mental health.

Other insurers already have taken steps to cover telehealth or telemedicine services.

Still, the change in policy by the South Carolina Blues plan is a major breakthrough that should lead to even more inroads for telemedicine in the state, says Jim Ritchie, executive director of the South Carolina Alliance of Health Plans.

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Cisco Launches HealthPresence Telemedicine Solution, Providing Increased Access to Medical Care Worldwide.

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference in Atlanta today, Cisco announced the availability of the Cisco HealthPresence™ platform. Cisco HealthPresence is an advanced, care-at-a-distance technology platform that allows patients to connect with doctors and clinicians for health care consultations in ways never before possible. Traditional telemedicine or telehealth approaches have focused mostly on the problem of physical access to medical care. Cisco HealthPresence addresses four additional key health care delivery challenges:

* Capacity (the scarcity and productivity of clinical expertise)
* Collaboration (one patient with many clinicians, many providers with many providers, and many patients with many patients)
* Information exchange (the ability of participants to share and view vital health information)
* Personalization (engaging patients in ways that make them more active participants in consults)

Cisco HealthPresence extends and expands access to health services and quality care. HealthPresence creates new, streamlined clinical encounters by integrating two technology innovations: Cisco TelePresence™ and Cisco® Unified Communications. With high-definition video, clear audio and connected medical devices, Cisco HealthPresence supports collaboration and personalization rarely accomplished in traditional face-to-face consultations. Patients in HealthPresence encounters can see images and listen to sounds from a variety of diagnostic devices, such as digital stethoscopes, actively participating with what clinicians see and hear.

Beginning with HealthPresence trials in 2008, patients have described how the immersive video experience, along with the real-time transmission of physiologic information, draws them into the medical encounter. At the same time, clinicians report more effective patient management with HealthPresence. Equally important, HealthPresence allows multiple members of a patient’s care team to simultaneously participate in consultations, creating new ways to deliver and coordinate care. This is a significant innovation from typical point-to-point telemedicine solutions and even traditional in-person medical examinations. With HealthPresence, primary care physicians and specialists, care managers and rehabilitation therapists, family members, and caregivers can all participate in treatment and care planning. These new capabilities are essential for information and communications technologies to play a vital role improving access to, and the affordability and quality of, health care.


* Cisco HealthPresence is planned to be available beginning March 2010 in markets across the United States, Canada and Europe. It is classified as a Class I medical device by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

* To evaluate patients in an interactive and highly participatory way, Cisco HealthPresence arms clinicians with the essential tools, including:
o Cisco Vitals Software, which captures physiological data and streaming high-definition video feeds, sending them to the clinical team with a high degree of security.
o Cisco TelePresence units in clinical and patient locations.
o Integrated voice, video and data capabilities that collect patient medical information for transmission among multiple health care providers or between a single doctor and patient before, during and after telemedicine consultation. Cisco’s custom software offers highly secure encryption technology to protect the privacy and security of patient data exchanged in distance communications between patients and caregiver staff.
o Medical devices located at the patient’s end unit: a general camera for external observation, ear-nose-throat camera, digital stethoscope, and a vital signs device to capture blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate, and blood oxygen levels.
* Cisco HealthPresence can be deployed in permanent facilities or mobile units.
* Cisco HealthPresence was piloted by the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)
* Cisco HealthPresence has already been successfully adopted through pilot programs in the United States and other countries, including:
o A groundbreaking HealthPresence pilot with Molina Healthcare, two community health centers in San Diego, and the state of California to provide health and wellness services to underserved communities throughout the state.
o HealthPresence pilots in Aberdeen, Scotland, with a division of the Scottish National Health Service, and in San Jose, Calif., with employees at Cisco’s corporate headquarters. Both 2009 pilots achieved equally favorable feedback: More than 90 percent of participants said they would recommend the service to others.
o Helping connect patients in need with critical medical resources in international locations including France, the United Kingdom, South Africa and China.

More information is available at;

Source: Cisco, Inc.

Medical College to Provide Specialty Services to Underserved Area via Innovative Telehealth Network.

Innovation Alert!

AmeriChoice by UnitedHealthcare, a Medicaid managed care organization that provides medical and behavioral health care services to TennCare members in East, Middle, and West Tennessee has expanded access to specialty health care services using a telehealth network.

Through an arrangement with Meharry Medical College, AmeriChoice members throughout Tennessee, who are seeking adult specialty services such as a dermatologist or a neurologist, will be able to visit a local community health center and use telehealth technology to consult with specialists composed of physicians who also serve on the faculty at Meharry Medical College.

According to a release issued by AmeriChoice, recent telehealth infrastructure expansion is propelling the advancement of telemedicine technology allowing patients to access medical or behavioral health specialists at local community health centers instead of traveling to the city.

AmeriChoice, a unit of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), serves more than 2.7 million people in Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Programs in more than 20 states and the District of Columbia.