The Department of Veterans Affairs provided over 2.6 million telehealth episodes in Fiscal Year 2019, making it the largest telehealth program in the country. In addition to a 235% in video visits, there was a 17% increase in overall telehealth services over the previous fiscal year, according to new data released by the VA. During this time, more than 900,000 veterans accessed the agency’s telehealth services in a clinic or at home.
FY 2019 was the first full year of the VA’s Anywhere to Anywhere initiative, which enables care teams to treat veterans regardless of their location, including across state lines or outside a VA facility. The new program is particularly beneficial for veterans living in rural areas who would otherwise need to travel a considerable distance or across state lines to receive care.
Use of VA Video Connect, the agency’s video app, increased by 235% this year. More than 99,000 veterans used the app at home, eliminating a trip to the nearest VA facility. More than 200,000, or approximately two-thirds of the 294,000 VA Video Connect appointments this year were for tele-mental health visits.
Read more at Health Data Management: https://www.healthdatamanagement.com/news/va-reports-235-increase-in-video-telehealth-visits-in-fy19
Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019 has bipartisan Senate and House support and would expand telehealth services through Medicare. The bill “aims to improve health outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors, and help cut costs for patients and providers” according to a statement released yesterday by the bill’s sponsor Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i)
“Telehealth is the future of health care. The technology is advancing, more providers and patients are relying on it, and we have broad bipartisan support,” said Senator Schatz. “This bill will help ensure that every American gets the care they need no matter where they live.”
The CONNECT for Health Act of 2019 builds on the progress made in recent years to increase the use of telehealth through Medicare. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the authority to waive telehealth restrictions when necessary;
- Remove geographic and originating site restrictions for services like mental health and emergency medical care;
- Allow rural health clinics and other community-based health care centers to provide telehealth services; and
- Require a study to explore more ways to expand telehealth services so that more people can access health care services in their own homes.
The California Assembly passed a telehealth bill requiring healthcare plans to equally reimburse providers for services having the same effect remotely as in person.
The bill, awaiting signature by California Governor Gavin Newsom, would expand telehealth access to all CA residents by requiring health insurance plans to reimburse providers for appointments that would have the same impact whether in person or via video.
Assembly Bill 744 strengthens and clarifies the existing telehealth statutes. The reimbursement of telehealth services is already covered under Medi-Cal, but this law enforces the same for private health plans as well.
Read more about California’s AB744 here: https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/california-looks-to-expand-coverage-for-telehealth-services
This week the AMA published an article with some interesting stats related to telehealth use across the US.
Here are some highlights:
- 21% of all telehealth claims were made by clients age 31-40 during the time period 2014-2018.
- In that same time period, 65% of all claims were made by female clients.
- Psychiatrists in rural areas were more likely to provide telehealth services, with 24.2% of psychiatrists in North Dakota offering telehealth, as opposed to only .01% in Massachusetts.