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Research analyzing patterns of telemedicine access from 150,000 patients found that older patients, non-white patients, non-English speakers, Medicaid recipients, and women were less likely to have had a telemedicine visit compared to the average patient. Study authors encourage telemedicine payment parity across all insurance types.

A study using New York data found that utilizing telemedicine in the emergency room significantly shortened average length of stay and wait time. This, in turn, improves patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Sun River Health, a 64-site system of federally qualified health centers providing care to low-income and vulnerable patients in New York state, received an FCC grant to vastly expand their telehealth program. As the epicenter of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., it was imperative for Sun River to switch to telehealth quickly by adopting new audio-visual capabilities and building a remote monitoring system. From February to May, Sun River saw a 9206.67% increase in telehealth visits.

A new HIMSS survey reported that 71% of U.S. adults say they would be willing to use telehealth after the pandemic. While younger patients are more likely to place convenience and accessibility first among health care priorities, they have used far less telemedicine during the pandemic compared to older adults.

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the Illinois Department of Agriculture debuted a helpline for Illinois farmers to more easily and confidentially access mental health care. Several Midwestern states--including Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa--have similar mental health helplines for farmers.

New research found that the most frequent users of direct-to-consumer (DTC) telehealth are younger patients who live in high-income, urban areas. Furthermore, only 14% of DTC patients were residing in primary care health professional shortage areas, suggesting that telehealth is still not accessible to those who might most benefit.

The three-year Frontier Community Health Innovation Program targeted 10 critical access hospitals in Montana, Nevada, and North Carolina. Of the 8 that used telehealth, all reported high patient satisfaction and success in improving access to care. However, small, rural hospitals are still challenged by their limited access to consulting specialists and by reimbursement and billing challenges.

A new HIMSS white paper found that telehealth visits increased by 50 to 175 times since COVID-19. Other findings showed that 76% of surveyed customers reported being likely to use telehealth in the future, and 74% reported high satisfaction.

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0 bill, which would allow health care providers to provide medication-assisted treatment drugs via telehealth. Currently, providers must conduct an in-person exam before prescribing MAT drugs.

Shenandoah Medical Center (SMC) recently received a $173,000 grant to develop their new emergency telemedicine program. The program will allow SMC to provide a 24/7 connection between emergency room staff and physicians to bridge the time until the on-call physician can arrive in person.

Trinity Health South Ridge and CHI St. Alexius in Minot, ND, were using telehealth for specialists only before COVID-19. Now, during the pandemic, the health centers have seen the value of telemedicine for primary care providers, as well.

Minnesota lawmakers are considering a proposal that would extend the date of the temporary allowance letting insurance providers cover telemedicine services.

Four students on the robotics team at the Breck School in Minneapolis, MN partnered with United Health Group to invent the Well At Home kit. The kit comes with a home base that virtually connects with a doctor, and will be offered to vulnerable clients to help maintain their health from home.

On December 1, CMS released their most current adjustments to the PFS with several adjustments around the provision of telehealth services. The CMS announcement summarizes those changes.

The Expanded Telehealth Access Act, introduced recently by several U.S. Representatives, is one of several bills introduced recently to maintain policies that enable telehealth after the pandemic. This bill would enable Medicare coverage for therapists and allow HHS to expand the list of eligible providers.

Check out the November 11 University of Minnesota news brief that highlighted gpTRAC’s work.

Governor Evers introduced a bill with the state’s recent COVID-19 relief package to prohibit health insurers from denying coverage for a service provided under telehealth if the service is covered under the policy when provided in person.

Avera eCARE Emergency is pioneering a project with USDA to bring telehealth to rural areas by equipping rural hospitals with telehealth technology. The pilot project will include communities in rural Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

The pandemic forced Mayo Clinic, among other health care providers, to adapt to telehealth, going from a virtual visit rate of 4% to 85% by mid-summer. According to Mayo’s CFO, the challenge for providers now is to synthesize the information coming in not only from EHRs, but also from the multitude of other telehealth platforms.

Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota spoke at a virtual event about the need to expand telehealth services and increase reimbursement rates after COVID-19. Senator Smith noted that telehealth may be especially useful for mental health services.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska is expanding their Medicare Advantage plans to 42 additional counties beginning in 2021. Medicare Advantage members will have access to additional COVID-related benefits, such as telehealth services, mail-order prescription drugs, and a 24/7 nurse line.

A recent study analyzing the effectiveness of San Francisco VA’s nurse call line over a four-month period found success in using telehealth to divert visits to the ED. Of the 104 cases in which the nurse recommended a telehealth visit, 21 were diverted from the ED and only 8 eventually ended up in the hospital.

A recent study found that rural hospitals (compared to micropolitan and metropolitan hospitals) were the least likely to have telehealth systems with patient engagement capacity and the least likely to report that clinical information was available electronically from outside providers, explaining some of the rural/urban divide in telehealth utilization.

A new program, developed by Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Columbia University Irving Medical Center has shown success in using telehealth for at-home rehabilitation for patients with pulmonary, cognitive, or mobility issues. Having a connected platform enabled patients to better adhere to their rehabilitation regimens.

A CDC survey from the summer found that 41% of respondents reported an adverse mental health or behavioral health condition related to COVID-19. One health plan in New York saw telemedicine visits increase 3400% this year compared to last year for patients with a variety of mental health conditions.

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