Welcome to Digital Health Briefing, a new morning email providing the latest news, data, and insight on how digital technology is disrupting the healthcare ecosystem, produced by BI Intelligence.
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TELEMEDICINE ADOPTION IS GROWING RAPIDLY: Roughly three-quarters of US healthcare organisations either offer or plan to offer telehealth services, according to Foley & Lardner’s 2017 Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey. The survey of 107 executives and healthcare providers across a range of US healthcare organisations, found that 53% of respondents say they’re either growing or expanding their telemedicine programs. That’s a significant shift in sentiment compared to findings in the first survey in 2014, when 87% of respondents said that patients wouldn’t want virtual care services in 2017.
The survey provides further evidence of telemedicine gaining traction in healthcare:
- Telemedicine is already showing ROI for most organisations. Fifty-four per cent of respondents said telemedicine resulted in at least 11% in cost savings. And almost a third of organisations saw more than 20% in cost savings.
- Telemedicine is the leading implementation of digital health initiatives. When asked to select all the ways they plan to expand digital health, around 81% of healthcare organisations selected telemedicine. That was followed by mHealth apps with 61%.
- Most providers are exploring international expansion using telemedicine. More than half of respondents say they already offer or plan to offer international services using telemedicine tech into markets like the Middle East and China.
However, there remain areas for improvement, as well as hurdles to overcome:
- Navigating third-party reimbursement is proving difficult. Almost 60% of participants say third-party reimbursement is the greatest challenge to deploying telemedicine services.
- Laws and regulations are still unclear. The rules on recording patient meetings, interstate licensing, prescribing drugs, and Medicare coverage are in flux as health care organisations and legislators determine how best to harness the promise of telemedicine, the report notes.
Government initiatives will play a large role in paving the way for further expansion of telehealth and telemedicine usage in US healthcare. For example, the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, introduced in April 2017, allows eligible hospitals to test telehealth services through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to increase access to care for rural patients.
US HOUSE COMMITTEE WANTS MORE TRANSPARENCY FOR CYBERSECURITY RISKS OF MEDICAL DEVICES. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was asked to submit a plan of action for creating, deploying, and leveraging a bill of material (BOM) for healthcare technologies, according to FierceHealthcare. The aim of the proposal will be to better equip organisations to understand medical device vulnerabilities. This will give healthcare providers a deeper understanding of how to take proactive measures when purchasing new equipment to prevent attackers. Some critics argue that BOMs give nefarious players a blueprint of known vulnerabilities. However, it’s more likely that potential attackers already aware of existing weaknesses, Joshua Corman, who worked on the HHS Cybersecurity Task Force, told FierceHealthcare. The BOM is one way to even the playing field. As more of heathcare companies turn digital, medical devices and systems present a valuable target to attackers, something the FDA is becoming increasingly concerned about. For instance, in February 2016, hackers effectively took Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center hostage by locking the hospital out of its system. The hospital ended up paying a ransom equivalent to $US17,000 in bitcoin to get their computers back online.
EHR VENDOR, ECLINICALWORKS IS HIT WITH CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT: Electronic health records (EHR) software maker eClinicalWorks is being sued for misrepresenting patient’s data, according to FierceHealthcare. The lawsuit — which is requesting damages of just under $US1 billion — posits that eClinicalWorks’ software fell short in several areas, including meeting federal data portability requirements, accurately tracking use actions in an audit log, and reliably recording diagnostic image orders. Not meeting these standards can seriously impede medical care. For example, inaccurate audit logs can mislead physicians over the course of a patient’s treatment. The impact is significant — more than 850,000 healthcare providers use eClinicalWorks software, affecting millions of patients in the US. The news follows less than six months after eClinicalWorks paid $US155 million to settle claims it falsely obtained certification for its EHR software — it was the first time the US Department of Justice fined an EHR vendor for not meeting federal requirements.
UNITEDHEALTHCARE TO ADD SAMSUNG, GARMIN TO ITS BYOD PROGRAM: The US insurance company plans to integrate Garmin and Samsung wearables into its bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program, which rewards members for meeting daily walking goals. Users of the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, Gear Sport, or Garmin Vivosmart 3, who reach UnitedHealthcare’s daily fitness goals can earn more than $US1,000 per year in HAS or HRA credits. The data will be tracked and kept secure by Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of processor maker, Qualcomm. Wearables are increasingly being folded into health insurance plans because they have been proven to improve well-being and reduce medical costs, according to Qualcomm Life senior vice president and chief medical officer, Dr. James Mault. This in turn can mitigate the number of claims the United Healthcare has to pay out. For instance, walking can help reduce the risk of heart disease by 9% and diabetes by 12%. Employers, too, are turning to wearables and well-being programs to improve the health of their workforce. By 2018, US employers will have integrated more than 13 million wearable health and fitness tracking devices into their employee wellness programs, according to Endeavours Partners.
IN OTHER NEWS…
- Express Scripts, the US pharmacy benefits management firm, is giving its members who suffer from respiratory health issues access to Propeller Health’s FDA-approved digital platform, MobiHealthNews reports. Members can attach Propeller’s sensor to their inhaler, which is synced to a mobile app to track and monitor inhaler usage.
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