Posts tagged Telehealth.
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In this episode of the Diagnosing Health Care PodcastWhat trends in state laws and regulations have emerged in the post-public health emergency (PHE) era, and how do these changes impact telehealth stakeholders?

At the federal level, many telehealth-related flexibilities have been extended through December 31, 2024, whereas, at the state level, there are wide variations in approach. Many states have continued to push the boundaries of existing telehealth policies, yet no two states are exactly alike in their approach to defining and regulating telehealth.

On this episode ...

Blogs
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On October 18, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), which is tasked with enforcing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), issued two new guidance documents pertaining to privacy and security risks associated with the use of telehealth services. One guidance document, entitled “Educating Patients about Privacy and Security Risks to Protected Health Information when Using Remote Communication Technologies for Telehealth,” is aimed at health care providers (the ...

Blogs
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On Friday, October 6, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) filed a Second Temporary Extension of the COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications (“Second Temporary Rule”), extending the full set of telemedicine flexibilities adopted during the COVID-19 public health emergency (“PHE”) through December 31, 2024. The Second Temporary Rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register today (October 10, 2023) and scheduled to take effect on November ...

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On August 4, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) announced plans to host two public listening sessions, scheduled to take place on September 12 and 13, 2023 at DEA’s headquarters in Arlington, VA, to collect additional input regarding the practice of telemedicine and specifically the remote prescribing of controlled substances without conducting an in-person evaluation of patients before prescribing.

The listening sessions will be open to the public, and those who anticipate attending must register through DEA’s Diversion Control website. The registration process opens today (August 7, 2023). DEA also plans to make the listening sessions available via livestream and copies of transcripts from the sessions also will be made available at a later date on the DEA Diversion Control Program website.

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In this episode of the Diagnosing Health Care Podcast A complex landscape of state laws overlays the direct access testing model, ranging from physician order requirements, such as telemedicine standards and the corporate practice of medicine doctrine, to specimen collection considerations, including how the varying options for collection could impact a model.

How do these factors combine to create a roadmap for companies navigating the direct access testing industry?

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On April 11, 2023, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced its plan for termination of the existing notifications of enforcement discretion related to the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) on May 11, 2023. 

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In the era of abortion regulation and the wind-down of the COVID-19 public health emergency (“PHE”), new legislation in states such as Utah may be a sign of what is to come for online and telehealth prescribing. On February 14, 2023, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would repeal the State’s “Online Prescribing, Dispensing, and Facilitation Licensing Act” (“Online Prescribing Act”). Utah H.B. 152. The bill currently awaits Governor Spencer Cox’s signature and would take effect sixty (60) days after its signing.[1] Originally enacted in 2010, the Online Prescribing Act has allowed health care providers to register with the State to prescribe and dispense certain FDA-approved drugs via online pharmacies and utilization of telehealth visits. Utah Code § 58-83-306. While providers have been required under the Online Prescribing Act to obtain a comprehensive patient history and assessment prior to issuing a prescription, at present, this may be done via telehealth. Utah Code § 58-83-305. Once signed into law, the effect of H.B. 152 would be to make asynchronous telehealth-only prescribing unlawful in the state, with Utah’s law on the scope of telehealth practice amended to prohibit “diagnos[ing] a patient, provid[ing] treatment, or prescribe[ing] a prescription drug based solely on . . . an online questionnaire; []an email message; or []a patient-generated medical history. Utah H.B. 152, amending Utah Code § 26-60-103.

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On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a coordinated law enforcement action against 14 telehealth executives, physicians, marketers, and healthcare business owners for their alleged fraudulent COVID-19 related Medicare claims resulting in over $143 million in false billing.[1] This coordinated effort highlights the increased scrutiny telehealth providers are facing as rapid expansion efforts due to COVID-19 shape industry standards.

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOJ has prioritized identifying and prosecuting COVID-19 ...

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On April 29, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will begin accepting applications for the second round of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program (the “Program”). However, the application filing window will only be open for a very short seven day period and will close on May 6, 2021. To give all applicants an equal opportunity to have their applications reviewed, the FCC announced that all applications filed during this period will be reviewed once the application filing window has closed.

Initially, in March 2020, Congress appropriated $200 million for the first round of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding under the CARES Act. An additional $249.95 million was provided to the FCC in December 2020, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), to helping address inequities in access to health care service. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program was designed to help health care providers purchase telecommunications equipment, broadband connectivity, and other devices necessary for providing telehealth services to rural, low-income and underserved populations.

The Program is limited to nonprofit and public health care providers (47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(7)(B)) that fall within the following categories:

  1. Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
  2. Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
  3. Local health departments or agencies;
  4. Community mental health centers;
  5. Not-for-profit hospitals;
  6. Rural health clinics;
  7. Skilled nursing facilities; or
  8. Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into one of the first seven categories.
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Our colleague Melissa L. Jampol of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on the Commercial Litigation Update blog that will be interest to our readers: “Opioids, Sober Homes and ‘Telefraud’: An Overview of the DOJ 2020 Healthcare Fraud Takedown.”

The following is an excerpt:

As we have previously reported, opioids have been a large focus of DOJ in the past few years in an attempt to stem the opioid epidemic through increased enforcement and this takedown is a continuation of those efforts. DOJ stated that the charges involved in the opioid-related takedown involved the ...

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On March 13, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation that the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) outbreak in the United States constituted a national emergency. Following this proclamation, pursuant to section 1135(b) of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), Alex Azar, invoked his authority to waive or modify certain requirements of titles of the Act as a result of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the extent necessary, as determined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), to ensure that sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of individuals enrolled in the Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (“CHIP”). This authority took effect on March 15, 2020, with a retroactive effective date of March 1, 2020 and will terminate at the conclusion of the public health emergency period.[1] Pursuant to this authority, HHS announced a number of nationwide blanket waivers, including a waiver related to telehealth, in order for providers to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.[2]

Separate from and in addition to the blanket waivers, the Secretary’s authority under Section 1135 also allows CMS to grant Section 1135 waivers to states that request CMS to temporarily waive compliance with certain statutes and regulations for its Medicaid programs during the time of the public health emergency. So far, many states have requested these additional flexibilities in order to focus their resources on combatting the outbreak and providing the best possible care to Medicaid enrollees in their states. CMS has been rapidly approving these Section 1135 waiver requests, but it is important to recognize that not all state requests are created equal with respect to utilizing telehealth / telemedicine services during the public health emergency. Based on a review of the publicly available state request letters, it is clear that some states have prioritized use of telehealth in order to respond to COVID-19, while other states have not, or have not yet requested similar flexibilities related to provision of telehealth services. Examples of states that have prioritized greater use of telehealth include:

  • California: The state requested flexibility for telehealth and virtual communications to make it easier for providers to care for people in their homes. Specifically, California requested flexibility to allow telehealth and virtual/telephonic communications for covered State plan benefits, such as behavioral health treatment services, and waiver of face-to-face encounter requirements for Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics, among others. The state also sought reimbursement of virtual communication and e-consults for certain providers. CMS approved this waiver request on March 23, 2020.
  • Illinois: The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services waiver request, approved on March 23, 2020 by CMS, sought flexibility of documentation requirements, including the lack of documentation of consent for a telehealth consult. Like several other states, Illinois also requested CMS to allow providers to use non-HIPAA compliant telehealth modes from readily available platforms, such as Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, etc., to facilitate a telehealth visit or check-in at the location of the patient, including the patient’s home.
Blogs
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In response to the growing concerns of the capacity of the health care workforce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 24, 2020 the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, issued a letter and associated Guidance to all Governors urging them to take immediate action.  While the federal government, and some states, have admirably waived and relaxed many rules related to the provision of various types of benefits and services, including relaxed telehealth and privacy rules/enforcement, many necessary actions are within the authority of state governments ...

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On March 17, 2020 the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced that it would “exercise its enforcement discretion and will waive any potential penalties for HIPAA violations” for health care providers who are serving patients using “everyday communications technologies.”  The OCR issued this guidance to ensure providers could make use of available technologies and communication apps in order to facilitate virtual visits with patients.

Specifically, the guidance provides (emphasis added):

A covered health care provider ...

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While providers struggle to provide health care to their patients amid the coronavirus contagion concerns, recent regulatory and reimbursement changes will help ease the path to the provision of healthcare via telehealth.

On March 6, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) response funding package. In addition to providing funding for the development of treatments and public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, the bill authorizes the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar (referred to herein as the “Secretary”), to waive Medicare restrictions on the provision of services via telehealth during this public health emergency.

Greater utilization of telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak will reduce providers’ and patients’ exposure to the virus in health care facilities. Telehealth is especially useful for mild cases of illness that can be managed at the patient’s home, thereby decreasing the volume of individuals seeking care in facilities. To further facilitate the increased utilization of telehealth, the Centers for Disease Control’s interim guidance for healthcare facilities notes that healthcare providers can communicate with patients by telephone if formal telehealth systems are not available. This allows providers to have greater flexibility when telehealth technology providers lack the bandwidth to accommodate this increase in telehealth utilization or are otherwise unavailable.

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We hope that everyone is staying safe during the COVID-19 crisis. State health departments are, of course, doing what they can to facilitate management of transmission of COVID-19 by healthcare providers. Some recent actions by the New York Department of Health (“DOH”) to allow or promote telephonic and telehealth services include:

Telephonic Evaluation - Beginning with dates of service of March 13, Medicaid will reimburse telephonic evaluation and management services for established patients where face-to-face visits may not be recommended and it is medically ...

Blogs
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While the world continues to respond to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Congress recently passed legislation that provides for more than $8 billion in emergency funding to combat COVID-19. Part of this supplemental funding package, signed into law on March 6, 2020, includes the Telehealth Services During Certain Emergency Periods Act of 2020 (the “Act”),[1] which authorizes the Administration to loosen restrictions on telehealth in order to expand access to COVID-19 related telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries—many of whom are especially vulnerable to this virus and in the event of future emergencies. On March 17, 2020, the Administration announced the implementation of this waiver with a retroactive effective date of March 6, 2020.

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Our colleagues Amy F. LermanFrancesca R. Ozinal, and team have released the 2019 update to Epstein Becker Green’s Telemental Health Laws survey.

Available as a complimentary app for iPhoneiPad, and Android devices, the survey covers state telehealth laws, regulations, and policies within mental health.

For more about the survey findings, visit “Epstein Becker Green Finds Telehealth Services Are Increasingly Accessible to Mental Health Professionals Despite Legislative Barriers.”

Also see the "Telemental Health Laws: Overview" for more about the ...

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) has published a final rule that will expand access to telehealth services for Medicare Advantage (“MA”) plan enrollees.[1] CMS Administrator Seema Verma characterized the agency’s latest policymaking efforts as “a historic step in bringing innovative technology to Medicare beneficiaries” and a way for the agency to provide “greater flexibility to Medicare Advantage plans, [so] beneficiaries can receive more benefits, at lower costs and better quality.”[2]

Traditionally, MA plans have been limited to ...

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On February 14, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced the Emergency Triage, Treatment and Transport reimbursement model (the “ET3 Model”), a demonstration project that aims to provide improved flexibility to ambulance crews addressing 911-initiated emergency calls for Medicare beneficiaries.

CMS plans to release its Request for Applications (“RFA”) to solicit participation in the ET3 Model from Medicare-enrolled ambulance providers and suppliers in the summer of 2019. The ET3 Model start date is anticipated for January 2020 for ...

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Many physicians rely on publicly available reports to assess the safety of the devices they use on patients, but in some cases, these reports aren’t painting the full picture.  A recent Kaiser Health News (“KHN”) article raises serious questions about FDA’s practice of allowing a significant number of medical device injury and malfunction reports to stay out of the public eye.

Under FDA’s Medical Device Reporting (“MDR”) regulation (21 CFR part 803), device manufacturers, importers, and device user facilities (which include hospitals, ambulatory surgery ...

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The Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) for the Department of Health and Human Services recently issued an Advisory Opinion that provides insight into how the agency evaluates arrangements that deal with the integration of technology, medicine, and patient monitoring under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”). In Advisory Opinion No. 19-02, OIG evaluated whether a pharmaceutical manufacturer could temporarily loan a limited-functionality smartphone to financially needy patients enrolled in federal health care programs. OIG concluded that the proposed ...

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The telehealth industry has experienced constant developments in the regulatory landscape at both the federal and state level over the past several years, and we are confident these changes will continue into 2019 as the utilization of telehealth services continues to evolve and mature. A notable area of activity is how regulators, are approaching the telehealth industry, in particular remote prescribing applications of this platform.

On the federal level, we should expect to see promulgation of regulations by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration outlining the special ...

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On October 18, 2018, the FDA published Content of Premarket Submissions for Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices.  This guidance outlined recommendations for cybersecurity device design and labeling as well as important documents that should be included in premarket approval submissions.  This guidance comes at a critical time as the healthcare industry is a prime target for hackers.  On January 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Industrial Control System Cyber Emergency Team (US-CERT) issued another advisory regarding medical device ...

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On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed sweeping bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid epidemic. The Substance Use–Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, or the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (“H.R. 6” or “the Law”), aims to “reduce access to the supply of opioids by expanding access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services.”[1] Congress has already appropriated $8.5 billion to implement this “landmark legislation” in 2018 and 2019.

In a series of Client Alerts, Epstein ...

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Effective June 11, 2018, all Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) health care providers will be able to offer the same level of care to all beneficiaries regardless of the beneficiary’s or the health care provider’s location. In its recently released final rule, the VA stated that in December 2016 Congress mandated that the agency provide veterans with a self-scheduling, online appointment system, and that the agency meet the demands for the provision of health care services to veterans, regardless of whether such care was provided in-person or using telehealth ...

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report revealing that during OIG’s 2014 and 2015 audits of telehealth claims, more than half of the professional telehealth claims paid by the Medicare program did not have matching originating-site facility claims.

According to the report, Medicare telehealth spending increased from $61,302 in 2001 to $17,601,996 in 2015. Among the 191,118 Medicare paid distant-site telehealth claims (totaling $13,795,384), the OIG randomly sampled 100 of those claims and obtained ...

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In March 2018, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) made its 2018 report to Congress, which included the Commission’s evaluation of telehealth services provided through the Medicaid program. Chapter 2 of MACPAC’s report had a positive outlook on telehealth’s contribution toward better accessibility of health care services to underserved individuals as well as individuals with disabilities.

Unlike its larger counterpart, Medicare, federal policy has not placed many restrictions on state Medicaid programs in terms of adopting or designing ...

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On February 9, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (“BBA”). Among the most notable changes that will occur with the enactment of the BBA is the inclusion of certain provisions taken from the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (“CHRONIC”) Care Act of 2017 bill (S.870) which the Senate passed in September 2017. Among other things, the CHRONIC Care provisions will have the effect of redefining new criteria for special-needs plans (“SNPs”), in particular the special-needs Medicare Advantage ...

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One of the challenges to increasing Medicare coverage of telehealth services is amending the statutory language in the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 1395m) to remove geographic and other limitations. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 requires the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) to provide cost estimates of proposed legislation. These CBO scoring reports provide estimates on the spending and revenues associated with legislation, generally over the window of 10 years beyond the effective date of the legislation. Therefore, budgetary ...

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The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (“MedPAC”) met in Washington, DC on November 2-3, 2017. The purpose of this and other public meetings of MedPAC is for the commissioners to review the issues and challenges facing the Medicare program and then make policy recommendations to Congress. MedPAC issues these recommendations in two annual reports, one in March and another in June. MedPAC’s meetings can provide valuable insight into the state of Medicare, the direction of the program moving forward, and the content of MedPAC’s next report to Congress.

As thought leaders ...

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The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission ("MedPAC") met in Washington, DC, on October 5-6, 2017. The purpose of this and other public meetings of MedPAC is for the commissioners to review the issues and challenges facing the Medicare program and then make policy recommendations to Congress. MedPAC issues these recommendations in two annual reports, one in March and another in June. MedPAC's meetings can provide valuable insight into the state of Medicare, the direction of the program moving forward, and the content of MedPAC's next report to Congress.

As thought leaders in health ...

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You need not spend much time reading the news to know that recent Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of individuals, many of whom may already have behavioral health needs; however, the trauma caused by these recent natural disasters, and others, has created an immense need for additional behavioral and mental health services. For example, a 2012 study entitled “The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mental and Physical Health of Low-Income Parents in New Orleans” reported elevated rates of incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ...

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Pursuant to the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, Congress mandated the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (“MedPAC”) to provide a report to Congress by March 15, 2018, in which MedPAC has been asked to answer the following questions:

  1. Under the Medicare Fee-for-Service program (Parts A and B), what is the current coverage of telehealth services?
  2. Currently, what coverage do commercial health plans offer for telehealth services?
  3. In what ways can the Medicare Fee-for-Service program adopt some or all the telehealth service coverage presently found in commercial health plans?
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The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission ("MedPAC") met in Washington, DC, on September 7-8, 2017. The purpose of this and other public meetings of MedPAC is for the commissioners to review the issues and challenges facing the Medicare program and then make policy recommendations to Congress. MedPAC issues these recommendations in two annual reports, one in March and another in June. MedPAC's meetings can provide valuable insight into the state of Medicare, the direction of the program moving forward, and the content of MedPAC's next report to Congress.

As thought leaders in ...

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Updates to OIG FY 2017 Work Plan

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) recently updated its FY 2017 Work Plan. Traditionally, OIG’s annual Work Plan has given health care providers a preview of OIG’s enforcement priorities. With the OIG now making updates to its Work Plan on a monthly basis, providers stand to gain even more insight into how the focus of OIG is constantly shifting in order to assist in the identification of significant compliance risk areas.

In this most recent set of updates to the FY 2017 ...

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Private payer parity laws generally require private insurers and health maintenance organizations to cover, and in some cases also reimburse, for the provision of telehealth services in the same manner and at the same level as comparable in-person services. These laws are enacted at the state level, creating a complicated framework within which insurers must operate. At this point, most states have implemented some form of private payer parity law, although the specifics of each state’s laws vary. One of the most common is a rule such as Montana's, which requires insurers to offer ...

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After July 1, 2017, optometrists and ophthalmologists ("Ophthalmic Providers") in Virginia will be able to practice through telehealth. Va. Code § 54.1-2400.01:2 permits Ophthalmic Providers to establish a bona fide provider-patient relationship "by an examination through face-to-face interactive, two-way, real-time communication" or through "store-and-forward technologies." Licensed Ophthalmic Providers may establish a provider-patient relationship so long as the provider conforms to the in-person standard of care.  To the extent that an Ophthalmic Provider ...

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Telehealth continues to be a hot topic of state and federal legislatures. Texas, for example, recently joined the rest of the states in no longer requiring initial in-person visits before being able to provide telehealth services.

The Texas legislature enacted the major telehealth bill SB 1107 on May 19, 2017, and the governor signed the bill into law shortly thereafter on May 27, 2017. As reported in our prior post, Texas had considered that, if passed, this telehealth bill would allow patient-physician relationships to be established via telemedicine without requiring an initial ...

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At the American Telemedicine Association’s (“ATA”) recent conference in Orlando, a panel of strategic investors discussed the growth of the telehealth industry. The panel delved into topics such as the driving forces for telehealth and which telehealth programs they believe have the ability to gain traction across a broad universe of stakeholders. Based on firsthand experience with deals that have worked, and those that have not, the panel shared their insights and discussed lessons learned, which in turn provided listeners with interesting insight regarding the future ...

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In recent years, Texas has served as ground zero for a number of the most contentious legal battles surrounding telehealth. This week, State Senator Charles Schwertner, the chairman of the Committee on Health and Human Services, submitted a bill signifying progress for telemedicine and telehealth providers looking to practice in the Lone Star State. The bill, S.B. 1107, would remove one of the toughest hurdles for telemedicine and telehealth practitioners – the face-to-face meeting requirement. Providers would be able to provide services to, and establish physician-patient ...

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Much of the recent media scrutiny may suggest that Texas has gotten a bad rap when it comes to telehealth. But have recent reports painted an incorrect or unfair picture of telehealth innovation in Texas? The TexLa Telehealth Resource Center (“TexLa TRC”) certainly thinks so.

Recent media attention focused on Texas telehealth innovation suggests Texas is behind the telehealth curve. In a recent report, the Texas Business Association said, “Texas lags behind other states in establishing a supportive regulatory environment for the expansion of these services,” while the ...

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As you all know, the subject of telehealth reimbursement continues to vex the community. For example, Medicare lags far behind.  According to the Center for Telehealth and eHealth Law, Medicare reimbursed approximately $14 million total under its telehealth benefit for 2014.  This represents less than .0025 percent of the total Medicare reimbursed for services that year.  Medicaid is something of a mixed bag with the vast majority of states providing some coverage for telehealth, but many lagging in coverage and reimbursement for store-and-forward services and remote patient ...

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On December 14, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas denied the Texas Medical Board's ("TMB") motion to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit brought by Teladoc, one of the nation's largest providers of telehealth services.[1]  Teladoc sued the TMB in April 2015, challenging a rule requiring a face-to-face visit before a physician can issue a prescription to a patient.  Following two recent Supreme Court cases stringently applying the state action doctrine, this case demonstrates the latest of the continued trend where state-sanctioned boards of market ...

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As 2015 winds down, I think it is safe to say that it has been a whirlwind year in telehealth.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), over 200 telehealth-related bills were introduced in 42 states.  The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has launched an interstate physician licensure compact that creates a new pathway to expedite physician licensure in multiple states.  Twelve states (with Wisconsin being the latest) have so far enacted the licensure compact.  Many states such as Colorado, Iowa, and Louisiana released regulations or policies that in ...

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One of the issues with which we often grapple in the telehealth space is the relative lack of availability of studies and data when compared to other areas of the health care sector.  Telehealth is relatively young and therefore has not had the time to build a voluminous body of data and evidence.  But things are changing.  Many stakeholders are doing exemplary work in telehealth research, and stakeholders like the Department of Veterans Affairs have longstanding evidence regarding the efficacy of telehealth.  However, it’s a more recent document that has caught my attention.

A ...

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A recent survey conducted by the Robert Graham Center, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and Anthem caught my attention. The survey was conducted to gauge the attitudes of primary care physicians regarding telehealth.  And the results make for interesting reading— providing great insight into how certain providers view and use telehealth. What struck me most is that while great progress has been made in the rate of telehealth adoption among providers, we still have a way to go. According to the survey report, state legal and regulatory issues, reimbursement, and provider ...

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Telemental health seems to be emerging, even booming.  Also referred to as telebehaviorial health, e-counseling, e-therapy, online therapy, cybercounseling, or online counseling, for purposes of this post, I will define telemental health as the provision of remote mental health care services (usually via an audio/video secure platform) by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists.  Most services involve assessment, therapy, and/or diagnosis.   Over the last few years, I have seen a wider variety of care models—from ...

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As many of you know, reimbursement for telehealth services is a mixed bag.  On the one hand, private payers generally seem ahead of the curve.  Many leading private insurers reimburse for telehealth.  Generally these coverage policies provide reimbursement for telehealth services when they involve the use of real-time interactive audio, video, or other electronic media for diagnosis and consultation.  Just as significantly, more than half the states and the District of Columbia have passed telehealth parity statutes which require health insurers to provide coverage for services ...

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As stakeholders, legislators and policymakers wrestle with the myriad of issues related to the provision of remote health care, clinical and technological advancements continue apace. What was once an industry focused primarily on the provision of primary care through existing remote platforms is morphing into a highly sophisticated brew of clinical and technological innovation.  In that regard, several trends have caught my attention. While these trends may not squarely fall within the accepted definitions of “telehealth”, they are worth noting because they raise many ...

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As telehealth legal and regulatory issues continue to evolve, stakeholders need to stay current on trending issues. With that in mind, we are offering a complimentary “crash course” webinar series in which we will discuss a number of significant legal and regulatory issues implicated by telehealth including reimbursement, state issues, and employers.

How Do I Get Paid?

During this first installment of EBG’s Telehealth Crash Course series, we will discuss the current reimbursement landscape, including distinctions between various payer models and the growing impact of ...

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Hospitals and others are increasingly implementing telehealth programs as part of their service offerings. As health technology becomes more sophisticated and hospitals look to provide more services to more patients, telehealth technologies are being incorporated by hospitals by hospitals in diverse and innovative ways. As telehealth utilization continues to increase, however, hospitals should be aware that there are various significant legal and regulatory issues that must be closely analyzed to ensure that adoption of telehealth technologies is consistent and ...
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As discussed previously on this blog, employers are increasingly turning to telemedicine as a way to cut employee health care costs and improve bottom lines. The trend will be accelerated by the impending Cadillac Tax, a 40 percent excise tax on the excess of the cost of an employee’s applicable coverage over the employee’s applicable dollar limit. In February, the Treasury and IRS released Notice 2015-16 (the “Notice”), kicking off the process of developing regulatory guidance regarding the Cadillac Tax. Specifically, the Notice addresses the following issues:

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    I have examined on this blog the various legal and regulatory issues implicated by telemedicine.  Many of those issues involve the practice of medicine and how state medical boards interpret state laws and regulations impacting telemedicine, and how those boards enforce those laws.  Believe it or not, a recent Supreme Court case may have an impact on how state boards do their business.

    On February 25, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the North Carolina Dental Board (“Board”) was not insulated from federal antitrust liability under the so-called “state ...

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    As we have explored a number of times on this blog, telemedicine has gone mainstream.  The more recent development is that employers seem to be paying more attention now. The numbers speak for themselves. A recent Towers Watson study focusing on employers with at least 1,000 employees concluded that U.S. employers could save up to $6 billion per year if their employees routinely engaged in remote consults for appropriate medical problems instead of visiting emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and physicians’ offices.

    Attitudes towards telemedicine more generally in the United ...

    Blogs
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    As a lawyer practicing in the telemedicine space, I am rarely surprised these days.  But every once in a while I will read or hear something that stops me in my tracks. That is exactly what happened when I read a blog post by an FTC Commissioner which, among other things, calls for government policies that help facilitate greater adoption of telemedicine.  The post was part of a broader piece about the FTC's role in promoting competition and innovation in health care.

    By way of quick background, the Federal Trade Commission is the federal agency charged with protecting ...

    Blogs
    Clock less than a minute
    As telehealth grows and becomes more mainstream, all kinds of questions often arise.  They range from administrative to operational to legal issues. In conjunction with the American Hospital Association, my colleague Amy Lerman and I have co-written two white papers for the American Hospital Association Trendwatch series focusing on telehealth issues. Among other things, the white papers discuss telehealth, operational, legal, regulatory, and policy issues.  The first white paper entitled “The Promise of Telehealth for Hospitals, Health Systems and Their Communities,” ...
    Blogs
    Clock 2 minute read

    Earlier this week, the American Telemedicine Association reported an important clarification regarding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (“CMS’s”) plans for expanding reimbursement for telehealth services provided to Medicare beneficiaries.  The October 31, 2014 final rule with comment period regarding payments to physicians generated much excitement in the telehealth community, particularly because it opens a door, albeit only slightly, to possible Medicare coverage for remote patient monitoring services.

    However, the ATA has clarified with CMS ...

    Blogs
    Clock 2 minute read

    Who knew?!  Buried among more than 1,000 pages of a new final rule with comment period on payments to physicians, released on October 31, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) finally has given telehealth providers a glimpse of its plans to expand reimbursement for telehealth services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. 

    The final rule includes a provision that would cover remote chronic care management using a new current procedural terminology (“CPT”) code, 99490 (with a monthly unadjusted, non-facility fee of $42.60).  This new CPT code can be ...

    Blogs
    Clock 5 minute read

    There can be no question that telehealth has gone mainstream.  The numbers speak volumes. Telehealth companies have been able to raise almost $500 million since 2007 according to a noted venture capital analyst.  A recent study indicated that U.S. employers could save up to $6 billion a year through telehealth.  Per the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of all U.S. hospitals now offer some form of telehealth service.  Some leading analysts estimate that global revenue for telehealth will reach $4.5 billion by 2018, and the number of patients using telehealth services ...

    Blogs
    Clock less than a minute
    On September 5, 2014, the Federation of State Medical Boards, a nonprofit organization representing the 70 state medical and osteopathic boards nationwide, announced the completion of its drafting process for its Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (“Compact”). Finalizing the Compact is a critical step toward removing one of the major barriers preventing a greater proliferation of telehealth technologies and services. Under the Compact, a physician who is licensed in his or her principal state and who meets certain educational, certification, and disciplinary ...
    Blogs
    Clock less than a minute

    A significant barrier to the interstate practice of telehealth is closer to being broken down. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has completed and distributed a draft Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, designed to facilitate physician licensure portability that should enhance the practice of interstate telehealth.  Essentially, the compact would create an additional licensing pathway, through which physicians would be able to obtain expedited licensure in participating states.  As the FSMB notes in its draft, the compact "complements the existing ...

    Blogs
    Clock 7 minute read

    By: Alaap Shah and Marshall Jackson

    Data is going digital, devices are going mobile, and technology is revolutionizing how care is delivered.  It seems to be business as usual, as your health care organization continues to digitize its operations.  You have even taken measures to help guard against the “typical” risks such as lost laptops, thumb drives and other electronic devices.  However, unbeknownst to you, hackers sit in front of their computers looking for ways into your network so that they may surreptitiously peruse through confidential financial records and sensitive ...

    Blogs
    Clock 6 minute read

    By:  Alaap Shah and Ali Lakhani

     

    The Good: 

    “Hey Doc, just shoot me a text . . .”

    The business case supporting text messaging in a health care environment is compelling - it is mobile, fast, direct, and increases dialogue between physicians and patients as well as streamlines the often inefficient page/callback paradigm that stalls workflows and efficiency in the supply chain of healthcare delivery.  As a growing percentage of the 171 billion monthly text messages in the U.S. are sent by healthcare providers, often containing electronic protected health information (ePHI ...

    Blogs
    Clock 5 minute read

    Below is a re-print of an article that we recently wrote for the Advisory Board Company’s 2013 third quarter General Counsel Agenda. To view the original publication in the General Counsel Agenda, click here.

    For hospitals, the promise of telehealth has spurred innovation across multiple service lines and led to the emergence of a number of new delivery models such as telestroke, teleradiology, telepsychiatry, telepathology, teleICU and remote patient monitoring.  While many of these programs are leading to significant improvements in access to health care services, quality ...

    Blogs
    Clock 5 minute read

    Telehealth creates unique health information management challenges for various reasons, including: aggregating large data sets (i.e. remote monitoring); using and storing numerous file formats (video, audio, text, digital images, film); establishing safeguards for sharing data with virtual providers and distant sites; determining the appropriate location for data storage (if more than one provider or entity is involved); and more.  All of these challenges create issues relating to medical record management, maintenance, ownership, and storage.

    In the past, it was easier ...

    Blogs
    Clock 4 minute read

    Christine Kearsley contributed to this article.

    In Durham, North Carolina, the child psychiatrist comes to the classroom.  By telehealth. For the past eight years, Duke University Medical Center has teamed up with Durham Public Schools to export child psychiatry to where the kids are.  Duke fellows in child psychiatry travel to three elementary schools and one upper-school site to offer in-person mental health services to children with diagnosed mental health disorders.  To supervise the fellows, the attending physician conferences in.  As Dr. Richard D’Alli, the leader of the ...

    Blogs
    Clock 2 minute read

    About two weeks ago, the Governor of Nevada signed into law new legislation that removes a number of barriers to the practice of telehealth within the state of Nevada.  Among the most significant changes, the Nevada legislation allows physicians to establish a physician-patient relationship (which is a precondition for prescribing drugs, rendering diagnoses, and performing other medical services) through a telehealth encounter.  In doing so, Nevada joins only a small number of states that have taken this step.  However the Nevada law is significant not only because it allows a ...

    Blogs
    Clock 4 minute read

    Before initiating treatment, health care providers must generally obtain their patients’ informed consent. The purpose of the informed consent process is two-fold. First, it allows patients to gain an understanding of the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment, and alternative courses of action. Second, it helps shield providers from legal exposure.

    A formal informed consent process is particularly critical for procedures that carry a high risk of patient injury. When considering such “high-risk” procedures, neurosurgery or radiation therapy may come to mind ...

    Blogs
    Clock 3 minute read

    In the healthcare industry we often associate information privacy and security enforcement with HIPAA and state privacy laws.  However, a lesser known but in some cases just as significant regulator of information privacy is the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). This is especially true with regard to mobile health applications, which depending on how they function and collect personal information, may not be regulated by HIPAA.  Regardless of whether or not you have to comply with HIPAA, if you run applications or software that can access personal information, then the FTC’s ...

    Blogs
    Clock 2 minute read

    While telehealth technology advances, unresolved legal issues continue to deter wider adoption of telehealth as a means of delivering health care services. One issue that telehealth providers must consider is the standard of care that applies in telehealth encounters. Generally, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice suit must prove, among other things, that the provider breached the standard of care. Therefore, knowing what standard of care applies is critical for any telehealth provider that wishes to insulate itself from potential malpractice liability.

    In traditional ...

    Blogs
    Clock less than a minute

    Telehealth is going mainstream. Once limited to rural or remote communities, the use of telehealth is increasingly being used to address critical shortages within many medical specialties (such as dermatology, neurology, radiology, critical care and mental health), and as a more efficient means to provide health care services. Many leading nationally-recognized health care providers, health plans and others have significant telehealth initiatives underway often in partnership with telecommunications vendors and government entities.  And developments in this space tend ...

    Blogs
    Clock 4 minute read

    As the technologies used to deliver telehealth services become more complex, telehealth providers as well as other HIPAA “covered entities” have an increasingly demanding role to play in ensuring the security of protected health information (PHI).  To fulfill this role, both telehealth providers and their business associates (such as the information technology companies and data storage providers that support telehealth platforms) must implement not only technical safeguards, but also physical security measures.  From locks, to security guards, to alarm systems ...

    Blogs
    Clock 5 minute read

    During and after a recent presentation regarding telehealth before a health care executive group, we were inundated with the following question:  Why should a hospital provide telehealth services when often times it will not get paid for those services?  It is, on its face, a great question.  After all, few of us would want to provide services we know will not be reimbursed.  But, in many ways, the question misses the boat.  While a hospital may not be paid directly for providing telehealth services, it nevertheless could significantly benefit in a number of ways that prove just as valuable ...

    Blogs
    Clock 6 minute read

    Too often, companies try to re-invent the wheel.  This is especially true in the telehealth sector where new models of care are constantly being tried and tested.  Fortunately for U.S. hospitals, health systems, and companies, however, we have great examples of telehealth models from around the world that have built successful business models in telehealth.

    Take the example of Calydial, a company based in Lyon, France, that specializes in remote dialysis. Launched in 2006, Calydial started with 25 patients with renal impairment who needed remote treatment and monitoring. Today ...

    Blogs
    Clock 6 minute read

    Telehealth is expanding rapidly outside of the U.S. in both developed and developing countries.  Not surprisingly, the expanded use of telehealth presents many of the same regulatory and reimbursement challenges abroad that it does here in the U.S.  One region in particular that has taken steps to expand telehealth across borders is Europe, where in an effort to confront the legal issues raised by telehealth, the E.U. has removed and revisited existing regulations.  The E.U. has also issued guidance through the European Commission (an institution that is responsible for ensuring ...

    Blogs
    Clock 4 minute read

    When evaluating the various legal and regulatory hurdles associated with telehealth—such as licensure, reimbursement, and privacy—one hurdle that often goes overlooked is the corporate practice of medicine.  Many states have enacted laws which directly or indirectly are viewed as prohibiting the “corporate practice” of medicine.  While variations exist among states, the doctrine generally forbids a person or entity, such as a general business corporation, other than a licensed physician, professional corporation (“PC”) or a professional limited liability ...

    Blogs
    Clock 5 minute read

    We are all too familiar with the many hurdles that stand in the way of the greater proliferation of telehealth.  This blog has examined various legal and regulatory stumbling blocks such as licensure, reimbursement, and privacy that continue to stand in the way of telehealth fulfilling its great promise—at least in the United States.  Other countries are increasingly embracing telehealth.  A recent spate of legislative and other activities, however, point to an evolving environment in which legislators and regulators are beginning to understand and grapple with the many legal and ...

    Blogs
    Clock 4 minute read

    The rapid development and utilization of remote patient monitoring tools in health care exposes the limitations of state licensure laws that generally require physicians to be licensed in states where their patients are located.  These laws are predicated on the physician and patient being in the same jurisdiction.  However, when using mobile-devices to actively monitor patients (such as a device sensor with 4G chipset that can directly connect to cellular networks), there is no single geographic anchor or fixed moment in time from which to define the encounter, episode or point of ...

    Blogs
    Clock 3 minute read

    While tech companies looking to provide health solutions must figure out early on whether they are HIPAA-regulated, HIPAA is not the be-all and end-all of privacy law. Even entities not regulated under HIPAA must abide by other privacy rules, including a wide array of state privacy laws. On December 6, 2012, in the state’s first legal action under its online privacy law, California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit against a major airline for not including a privacy policy in its smartphone app. The complaint alleges violation of California’s Online Privacy ...

    Blogs
    Clock 6 minute read

    As telehealth continues to grow, there are a number of legal, regulatory, and operational issues that threaten to stall its progress.  We have tackled many of these issues in previous blog posts.  But no obstacle looms larger than the issue of payment.  How can providers get consistently and appropriately reimbursed by payers for use of telehealth?  Absent a clear answer, telehealth will likely find it difficult to fulfill its great promise—at least in the United States.  Other countries are pulling ahead.  Here is a look at the current reimbursement landscape facing providers and what ...

    Blogs
    Clock 4 minute read

    by Joel Rush and Dawn Helak

    All indications are that international telemedicine is well positioned for strong growth over the next several years. The global healthcare marketplace is ripe with opportunities for U.S. based healthcare systems and providers to take advantage of the expanding use of telemonitoring systems and other telemedicine technologies to deliver top flight healthcare to patients across the globe.

    However, wherever there are opportunities, there are challenges. In addition to the economic and financial barriers to launching an international telemedicine ...

    Blogs
    Clock 6 minute read

    by Katherine R. Lofft

    There are myriad opportunities right now for new businesses and talented entrepreneurs targeting healthcare, particularly in the IT sector.  It’s an exciting time for people and companies looking to harness the promise of innovation and the power of technology to improve health care delivery, empower patients and lower costs.

    However, even the best ideas usually require money to get off the ground.  Sometimes they require more capital than the founders or management, or their family and friends, have available. While there are many individuals and ...

    Blogs
    Clock 3 minute read

    I’m sure most of you know about BYOB, but do you know about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  This is the term used when a company chooses to forgo issuing company-owned mobile computing devices (think smartphones and tablets), and encourages its employees to use their own personal mobile devices for business purposes.  And in the healthcare context, BYOD has important implications.

    For better or for worse, many companies have opted to institute a BYOD policy for a number of reasons.  Here are just a few rationales for BYOD:

    • Employees likely already have a smartphone or tablet or both.
    Blogs
    Clock 4 minute read

     A significant yet little-noticed trend is underway. And its effects could be far-reaching.  A growing number of states are enacting so-called telehealth parity statutes. These laws generally require health insurers to pay for services provided via telehealth the same way they would for services provided in-person. Almost a third of all states have enacted these statutes, and I predict more states will be jumping on the bandwagon. Telehealth is indeed going mainstream.

    Maryland became one of the latest states to jump on the bandwagon when the state’s governor signed a telehealth ...

    Blogs
    Clock 2 minute read

    Many legal obstacles have long stood in the way of telehealth. There are licensure laws, prescribing laws, practice of medicine requirements, credentialing rules, insurance coverage issues, and concerns about privacy, among others.  These hurdles have until recently relegated telehealth to the most geographically remote corners of health care where the only means of obtaining medical care is by phone or computer connection to a provider hundreds of miles away.  But now, with physician shortages and the ubiquity of the smart phone, telehealth is beginning to show up all over the ...

    Blogs
    Clock 2 minute read

    There is a proposal moving through Congress that has some interesting implications for telemedicine.  Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have proposed an amendment to the Online Pharmacy Safety Act that would impose additional restrictions on when and under what circumstances practitioners can prescribe medication under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  Although the Online Pharmacy Act is primarily intended to put an end to illegitimate pharmacies and the fraudulent sale of drugs online, as the American Telemedicine Association, HealthLeaders

    Blogs
    Clock 3 minute read

    Perhaps in recognition of its benefits to areas affected by shortfalls in specialists and primary care physicians or the need for remote monitoring, telemedicine received significant funding in the ARRA. For instance, the Rural Utilities Service was allocated $2.5 billion to fund “shovel-ready” distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband program; the Indian Health Services received $85 million to fund telemedicine; and a portion of the $2 billion allocated to the Office of the National Coordinator is to be used to support the “infrastructure and tools for the ...

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