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Re-introduced bill aims to curb hospital re-admissions through telehealth technology

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON — Legislation to expand the use of telehealth technology under Medicare to reduce hospital re-admissions in rural and underserved communities has been re-introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The bipartisan Fostering Independence Through Technology Act, S. 596, would create a pilot program to provide budget neutral incentives for home health agencies across the country to use remote patient monitoring to better monitor Medicare beneficiaries, improve health outcomes and reduce Medicare expenditures.

Thune and Klobuchar’s bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create pilot projects providing incentives for home health agencies to purchase and utilize remote patient monitoring and communications technologies. The technology would establish performance targets based on historic Medicare spending. The performance targets would measure success both through health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries and savings under Medicare due to the technology.

“This innovative RPM technology has the ability to revolutionize patient care and dramatically reduce the amount of money Medicare spends on hospital re-admissions each year,” stated Thune. “Not only could this technology reduce costs and improve health outcomes, but it also offers patients the individual freedom to stay in their homes, reducing costs associated with nursing homes and long-term care facilities. I’m pleased to have worked with many industry stakeholders in developing this legislation over the past few years, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this legislation through Congress.”

“Telehealth technology is critical to reducing healthcare costs and ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to high-quality and affordable health care,” added Klobuchar. “By expanding the use of innovative home care technology, this legislation will make health care more efficient and will allow seniors to stay in their homes longer without jeopardizing their health, safety or access to healthcare professionals.”

Due to recent changes in law, hospitals are now subject to payment penalties when a Medicare beneficiary is re-admitted to a hospital within a prescribed period with a complication that is preventable. Currently, about 1-out-of-5 Medicare patients who are hospitalized end up back in the hospital within 30 days, which creates significant unnecessary costs. This technology would aim to allow patients to be more closely monitored using non-invasive technology to help address possible post-hospitalization complications before they result in a re-admission to the hospital.

 

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New site for diagnosing, treating UTIs speaks to rise in telehealth-type services

BY Antoinette Alexander

TreatMyUTI.com is an online service founded by a group of physicians that offers online access to physician diagnosis and treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections with no office visit, exam or lab test required.
 
This is important because it speaks to a much larger trend within health care, and that’s the continued rise of telehealth-type services as patients and providers increasingly battle a crisis of access and affordability of health care.
 
As reported by Drug Store News, telehealth is expected to experience a sharp rise in the number of patients, according a report by health market research firm IHS, which projects that telehealth will reach 1.8 million patients around the world by 2017.
 
It also is important to note that Washington has taken notice. For example, a new bill, H.R. 6719, the Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012, introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., would establish that "no [medical] benefit covered shall be excluded solely because it is furnished via a telecommunications system," allowing greater access to telemedicine services through Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Tricare, Department of Veterans Affairs and federal employee health plans.

More recently, legislation to expand the use of telehealth technology under Medicare to reduce hospital re-admissions in rural and underserved communities has been re-introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
 
Now factor in the physician shortage. As its stands, the physician shortage is at about 10,000 and growing, and is expected to reach almost 30,000 by 2015, and more than 65,000 by 2025. And the national average wait times for a face-to-face appointment with a physician tops 20 days.
 
Clearly, there’s a need for greater access to healthcare services. Time will tell just how much traction a service like TreatMyUTI.com will actually get, but what is important is that healthcare professionals, like those that founded the site, continue to think out of the box and look for innovative ways to meet the healthcare needs of Americans.

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Change the channel: More consumers opt for mobile, online shopping

BY Alaric DeArment

Google is offering a service called Google Shopping Express, which would offer same-day delivery from brick-and-mortar stores in the San Francisco Bay Area to the Internet giant’s employees. Target and several other retailers have been named as possible partners.

With Google now looking to compete with Amazon — not to mention Target’s growing attention to online and mobile commerce — a growing body of consumer studies and industry trends shows that the most important emerging consumer demographic isn’t men, women, old people or young people; it’s multichannel consumers.

And it’s not just big, national and international chains either. Last Tuesday, Raley’s announced that it had partnered with Dunnhumby to create an online, social-networking component to its Something Extra loyalty program.

Meanwhile, one survey after another has shown that "going to a store" means, for a growing number of consumers, getting on the computer or pulling out the smartphone. Several recent Patient View surveys of AccentHealth viewers indicate that retailer apps will see increased use as consumers show more interest in tools such as live expert chatting, bar code scanning and prescription regimen management, especially now that 49% of surveyed smart-device users now have a retail app. Another AccentHealth survey found 29% of consumers report doing most shopping online.

Another survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin and released Wednesday, found that nearly three-quarters of people who work from home shop online, along with more than half who work out of an office.

Many retailers get the hint already. Target announced March 15 the purchase of online kitchen supply retailers Cooking.com and CHEFS Catalog, as well as sponsoring a competition with Fast Company magazine to develop a new mobile experience for the retailer at the recent SXSW conference. At the same conference, Walgreens won an "Appy" award for the Best Retail Mobile App, which now includes new functions, such as the ability to print from Instagram and access to a health reference encyclopedia. Ahold USA, the American division of Dutch supermarket operator Royal Ahold, is planning to expand its Peapod online grocery service.

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