Previously, we’ve discussed the pending Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations Act of 2018 (RUSH Act) and the potential impact it could have by allowing Medicare to participate in SNF telemedicine (skilled nursing facilities) to keep residents healthier and reduce hospital admissions. However, some facilities aren’t waiting for the bill to pass; they’re charging ahead with SNF telemedicine services, and they’re already seeing results. Read more
Home-based care—the most traditional type of health care—is making a comeback, especially for cancer patients. This is even more true for patients with hematologic malignancies, for whom there is no clear-cut distinction between the curative and end-of-life phases of disease. In an effort to keep patients comfortable and out of medical facilities, several hospitals have initiated Hospital at Home programs to provide a combination of acute, palliative, and hospice care needs. Some industry experts speculate that telehepatology may even join the mix. Read more
The Mayo Clinic—already a world-renowned medical facility—has boosted its level of patient care another notch by building a central telemedicine hub that monitors several Intensive Care Units at once. Research-heavy Mayo Clinic has been developing real-world solutions designed to be implemented in various healthcare settings nationwide, and this innovative ICU hub represents a major step forward by allowing physicians and patients to converse in real time via video conferencing. Read more
A new survey reveals that 86% of healthcare executives rate telemedicine as a priority, but they’re cautious about committing their budgets to an industry that is still experiencing growing pains. As outlined in Defining Telemedicine’s Role: The View from the C-Suite from Sage Growth Partners, a healthcare research, strategy, and marketing firm in Baltimore, many executives remain wary of the complex regulations, reimbursement challenges, and connectivity issues surrounding telemedicine adoption. Read more
According to the Centers for Disease Control Surveillance, this flu season has been among the worst of this decade. Fortunately, instead of clogging doctors’ offices, some patients have checked their symptoms with physicians via flu telemedicine. In recent months, multiple consumer-facing telehealth providers have reported significant increases in flu-related cases, leading to intriguing implications for the future of infectious disease management. Read more
Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along partisan lines to repeal the 2015 ruling that instituted net neutrality. When the repeal takes effect in February, internet service providers (ISPs) will no longer be prohibited from blocking or slowing particular web content, or from charging distinct prices for different connection speeds. While some experts welcome the freedom of an open internet, transparency rules, and the stimulation of business development, others are more skeptical of the ramifications of such a move on the telemedicine industry and its patients. Read more
As Medicare applies increasing pressure to lower hospital readmission rates, skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are finding that telemedicine may hold the key. A recent study conducted by the TRECS Institute (Targeting Revolutionary Elder Care Solutions) found that using a virtual physician service averts unnecessary transfers from SNFs to hospitals. Read more
Some new research shows that when it comes to intensive care units (ICUs), investing in telemedicine pays significant dividends: Combining a tele-ICU program with centralized bed management can increase case volume by roughly 40 percent and raise contribution margins by over $52 million. The differences were attributed to shorter lengths of stay, a higher ratio of case revenue to direct costs, and higher case volume. Read more
“Is your cucumber bitter? Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.
For an industry full of innovators, there’s a distinct lack of innovation in overcoming the reimbursement issue. I believe this is largely because we’ve trained ourselves to continue focusing on reimbursement, rather than discovering how to make the lack of reimbursement work for us or on creating a new model of telemedicine that makes reimbursement an afterthought.
If you believe telemedicine won’t expand until reimbursement is solved, why are any of us involved in Telemedicine? (I assume it’s to improve healthcare, which means we shouldn’t let reimbursement stop us.)
This is not to say that reimbursement is not impo Read more
Today’s reporting (and here, here, and many other places) that Community Health Systems hospital network was hacked for personal information is alarming. Although no credit card–and NO CARE INFORMATION–was taken, social security, birthdays, and addresses all were. That is, everything necessary to open bank accounts, sign up for credit cards, and nearly anything else that counts as identity theft.
As potentially bad for the patients as this is, it’s equally bad for Community Health Systems. Apparently their stock took only a brief hit (CYH), although it wouldn’t be shocking if it moves lower again assuming the news becomes more widespread and if they are sued. This scenario is possible because although–and I would like to emphasize this yet again–NO CARE INFORMATION WAS TAKEN (medical histories, treatments, etc.) the information was still covered under HIPAA. (They do have insurance to cover cyber liability, but even so…)
I do not know how the data was kept or encrypted. It’s interesting…and somewhat heartening…to know that the care information was not accessed by the hackers. However, I believe it helps us remember that no system is completely safe, and that the highest available level of security should always be used. Currently, regarding encryption, that would be AES 256-bit encryption. It also means use of secure one-time-use keys for communication software endpoints and conscientious use of regularly changed passwords by users. It means keeping devices used within networks either on VPNs (vitual private networks) or, again, using 256-bit encrypted, password-secured communication over non-VPN networks (and why not do it on the VPNs anyway?).
So, now the question is: Does this security breach have any implications for telemedicine and mHealth? My guess is that mHealth is probably at the greater risk. I think there’s less of a general use for cybercriminals for care data than simply personal data, and that certain types of personal data, such as location data combined with the pedometer on (could indicate you’re out jogging 10 miles from your house…might be a good time to break in), make mHealth a little more nerve-wracking. Just a guess. There may be very creative ways to make use of mass medical histories and treatment information that just hasn’t been discovered yet. Thoughts?
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