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Sleep Telemedicine Promises to Ease Shortage—But Only If It’s Reimbursed

As telemedicine has evolved over the years, sleep medicine has advanced accordingly to incorporate the growing technologies into the field. As described by Barry Fields, MD, MSEd, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a sleep physician at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in a recent interview with Pulmonology Consultant, sleep telemedicine first began as telephone calls between the patient and provider. Now, anyone with a smartphone and the appropriate app can participate in synchronous (real-time) sleep telemedicine. Read more

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DOT Telemedicine Backpack: Secrets Revealed

If you’ve ever wondered just how swyMed’s DOT Telemedicine Backpack can maintain a strong, reliable internet connection in low-bandwidth environments, you’re not alone—it’s a question that has intrigued many curious minds. It does carry redundant dual-modem connections and antennas, but the secret ingredient is none other than the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect™ software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) edge platform. As explained in a recent Network World article, this technology improves the performance of existing wireless network communications and is able to connect even when it’s far from wireless towers. Read more

Butterfly iQ photo

New Handheld Telemedicine Ultrasound Will Revolutionize Mobile Healthcare

As telemedicine brings health care beyond hospital walls, medical devices are quickly following—like the portable ultrasound. Unlike traditional ultrasound machines or even unwieldy 10-pound laptop ultrasounds, the newest handheld telemedicine ultrasound to hit the market—the Butterfly iQ—fits easily in a doctor’s pocket, carries an affordable price tag, and promises to help EMTs and physicians diagnose patients in the field and en route to the hospital. Some experts are even hailing this development as the equivalent of the introduction of smartphones or tablets in the computing world, saying that we’re only beginning to see the implications of the mobile ultrasound. Read more

doctor using tablet for telemedicine

Whose Telemedicine Usage Is Highest?

Two American Medical Association (AMA) researchers recently evaluated the data from the 2016 Physician Practice Benchmark Survey of AMA in order to estimate telemedicine usage among physicians. The AMA’s survey was the first national survey to examine physicians’ telemedicine utilization rates. Upon examining telemedicine use in patient interactions and in consultations with other health care professionals, the researchers found that particular specialties have higher rates of telemedicine utilization than others, and a larger practice size correlated with a higher likelihood to engage in telemedicine. Read more

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Rural Telemedicine Revives Local Hospitals

For smaller, rural hospitals, survival has become the name of the game—and not just for their patients. Keeping a physician on hand at all times in the Emergency Department (ED) is costly but necessary; unfortunately, this often results in rising salary costs and harried staff. However, hospitals participating in a hub-and-spoke rural telemedicine network are finding that rather than paying a physician to stay whether or not an emergency occurs, having instant access to physicians at a larger health system instead improves care management in the local ED and preserves limited resources—as well as boost staff morale and make it easier to attract new talent. Read more

handing over stacks of cash

Did Medicare Overpay for Telemedicine Reimbursement?

Amidst concerns that current levels of telemedicine reimbursement are insufficient to support the demand for telemedicine visits, a 2018 report by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) reveals that a significant portion of the Medicare telemedicine payments that have occurred were actually improper; they never should have been approved in the first place. The overpayments amounted to roughly $3.7 million—a sizable chunk of the total $13.8 million in payments that Medicare made in 2014 and 2015. The reasons for the disallowed claims were numerous and varied. Read more

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Telemedicine Cost Savings Are Just Beginning

Telemedicine has long been touted as a balm for rising healthcare costs. Indeed, a 2017 report from the Rural Broadband Association found that annual telemedicine cost savings averaged $20,841 per hospital in the US. Some believe that telemedicine, including remote patient monitoring, could shave a combined $4.3 billion off the country’s yearly healthcare bill. While a first glance at the cost savings looks promising, digging deeper reveals that several obstacles are still preventing us from maximizing the benefits of telemedicine; this suggests that, with full support, cost savings could be driven higher yet. Read more

farm along country road in Southern York County, PA

Rural Telemedicine Growing More Slowly than Expected

Telemedicine has been touted as a revolutionary solution to the shortage of physicians in rural areas, but a recent study published in JAMA suggests that although this trend may have begun, it has not yet snowballed as expected. Between 2005 and 2017, 83.3% of patients with commercial insurance who used telemedicine services lived in urban areas. This suggests that they were not driven to use telemedicine by a shortage of physicians, but rather by other factors such as convenience. Such a surprising result seems contrary to the belief that rural patients are seeking greater access to physicians; if this were the case, then one might expect more rural telemedicine than urban telemedicine. Read more

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Telemedicine Usage Exploding since 2005

According to a new study published in JAMA, telemedicine use has been skyrocketing since 2005. Researchers, curious about the adoption pattern of telemedicine, examined the trends in telemedicine use and its association with factors such as parity legislation and physician supply within a large commercial health plan. They found that from 2005 to 2017, telemedicine usage grew from 206 visits in 2005 to about 202,300 visits in 2017. Telemedicine usage expanded the most in primary care and telemental health (telepsychiatry); this rise, they surmise, may be largely due to increasing payer coverage for direct-to-consumer telemedicine. Read more

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College Telepsychiatry Finally Catching Up—Slowly

The majority of American college students feel overwhelmed, depressed, and/or anxious, according to the latest American College Health Association survey. Unfortunately, many schools lack easy access to needed mental health care—if they have any at all. And this doesn’t even take into account the students’ hesitation to seek help due to the stigma often associated with mental illnesses. With the growth of telemedicine, telepsychiatry and telemental health present a viable solution that could overcome many of these challenges. Read more