TTA’s week: KRACK hits Wi-Fi, King’s Fund Leeds, FL telehealth, 3rings expands, CHC last call

 

‘Black Monday’ with Wi-Fi, public key encryption vulnerabilities revealed. The King’s Fund in Leeds in December. Next steps in expanding telehealth state regulations. A tender advance notice. And 3rings introduces proactive ‘Things That Care’.  

LAST CALL for the Connected Health Conference in Boston 25-27 October. Readers still save $100. Click on advert link below.

Tender Alert: advance notice for NHS England/Leeds online consultation system (Initial steps for a giant program)
3rings goes Internet of Things with ‘Things That Care’ (UK) (A UK early stage company takes big steps)
KRACK is wack for Wi-Fi attack-–protocol flaw exposed (Black Monday’s KRACK and ROCA)
Improvements in telehealth reimbursement, interstate coverage urged in Florida (Telehealth ‘parity’ only a start)
The King’s Fund: ‘Sharing health and care records’ Leeds 13 Dec (Interoperability and more)
Counting down to the Connected Health Conference–readers save $100! (More added for next week’s event)

Verily’s million points of health data–easy for them, but for your doctor? StartUp Health’s funding breaks records. And four major tenders on offer in the UK.

Verily’s million points of BYO health data to take to your next doctor visit (Questions about What Would Google Do?)
StartUp Health’s Q3 is an even crazier $9bn YTD (Putting the pedal to the funding metal)
Tender Alerts: Wigan, Salford, NICE (Manchester), Kirklees (Three major tenders here)

A busy few days in health tech includes events in both US and UK, Anywhere with VA, cooling funding, tightening regulation, twisty power, detecting cancer for surgery and movement for disease treatment. And David(stow) staves off the NHS Goliath to keep telehealth in Cornwall.

Rock Health’s Q3 report: funding and mega-deals cool down (Just one of those things)
Proposed rule issued for ‘VA Anywhere to Anywhere’ telehealth cross-state care (True remote Home Telehealth moving forward)
NHS Kernow forced to postpone telehealth end by patient legal action (Follow up to ‘Let me die at home’–a patient from Davidstow takes action)
Tender Alerts: Staffordshire £
70m contract, Yorkshire and The Humber test (One huge, one small tender)
Regulation, safety and sustainable development: three short important updates (Editor Charles reports on new EU regulations)
Detecting cancer faster with a pen and smartphone camera diagnostics (Radical improvements to cancer detection) 
Twist up the power: carbon nanotube yarn as future power generator (Possible advance in powering wearables)
MedStartr Momentum 2017 – coming up 30 Nov! (The place to be for health tech is NYC after Thanksgiving)
BioSensics’ Huntington’s Disease remote monitor gains NIH grant (Uses movement and trending for disease diagnostics and treatment)

Long-term behavioral effects of football at a young age and tracking the hacking, again. And Connected Health Conference reboots in Boston at end of October (see advert below –readers save $100).

Hacking, insider actions 81 percent of healthcare data breaches: Protenus (54 % hacking alone, over 674,000 patients affected)
Connected Health Conference 25-27 October, Boston–save $100! (The largest global conference reboots. See link and information below.)
Youth football playing may contribute to long-term cognitive, behavioral issues: BU study (The result of hundreds of impacts to developing brains)

Of continued interest…

Can Big Pharmas hiring digital execs actually ‘reimagine medicine’? (A very big lift indeed)
The REAL acute care: hurricanes, health tech, and what happens when electricity goes out (It’s Groundhog Day with another hurricane a-coming)
Now EHR data entry 50% of primary care doctors’ workday: AMA, University of WI report (Concurs with other studies)
Want to know effectiveness of telehealth, interoperability? NQF reports take their measure. (Finally some assessment frameworks)
Keeping it cool: LifeinaBox mini fridge for meds goes Indiegogo (Delivery 2018)

Equivocal long term telemonitoring studies released by Telemonitoring NI, U. of Wisconsin (Telehealth, virtual visits not getting results they should)
It’s EPIC: Ehealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (Innovation from Cornwall to the world)
Can technology meet increasing demand for social care? (N. Somerset UK) (How best to assist those who need our help)
Events: MEDICA App Competition 15 November (DE)–not too late to enter! (Germany’s got Apps)
Events: UK Telehealthcare’s autumn and 2018 MarketPlaces, UK Health Show (Upcoming UKTHC events)

Fitbit unveils Ionic smartwatch earlier than expected. Their ‘Hail Mary’ pass? (Will this save Fitbit?)


The eighth annual Connected Health Conference is presented this year in Boston by the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHAlliance) in partnership with Partners Connected Health. This year’s theme is The Connected Life Journey: Shaping Health and Wellness for Every Generation–the future of technology-enabled health, wellness and what innovation means. Join over 2,000 providers, researchers, healthcare executives, and developers for three days of engaging conference activity and exhibits. TTA Readers receive $100 off when you enter CHC17TELE100 at registration. Click on the box above to go to the CHC17 website.


Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


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We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, HIMSS, MedStartr, HealthIMPACT, and Parks Associates.

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Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Subscribe here to receive this Alert as an email on Wednesdays with occasional Weekend Updates. It’s free–and we don’t lend out or sell our list–no spam here!

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief, donna.cusano@telecareaware.com, @deetelecare

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Improvements in telehealth reimbursement, interstate coverage urged in Florida

Florida is one of the 34 states (plus the District of Columbia) to have legislated telehealth commercial insurance coverage, usually termed ‘parity’, for telehealth (telemedicine) virtual visits. It’s also the headquarters of many telehealth related companies, which makes it surprising that it took till 2016 for legislation to pass. In the law was the formation of a Telehealth Advisory Council within Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to report on the actual performance of insurers in paying for telehealth services. This Advisory Council recently met to review a draft copy of a 32-page report that will be sent to Florida’s Governor and Legislature later this month. That report contained some aggressive recommendations based on their provider survey, such as:

  • Establishing a practitioner/patient relationship through telehealth alone, without a prior in-person visit
  • Real parity in insurance company payment with in-person visits–in other words, payment at the same rate, which is explicitly stated in regulations in only three of the 34 states with telehealth ‘parity’ legislation
  • Amend Medicaid rules to give provider reimbursement for more telehealth services–currently, Medicaid provides for reimbursement of live video conferencing only
  • Authorize participation in interstate “compacts” that enable cross-state licensure for telehealth services. This was in the Florida House version of the bill in 2016 but dropped from the final version approved by both chambers.

The Advisory Council’s survey prior to the draft report showed lower than the national usage of telehealth: 6 percent of practitioners versus nationally 16 percent. 45 percent of Florida hospitals used telehealth, below the 52 percent of hospitals (with another 10 percent in the process) found in a 2013 national poll. For practitioners, the key barrier was financial in three areas: required investment, adequate reimbursement for services, and a financial return.

By law, the Advisory Council must complete its report by December 1, 2018, but it appears they are well ahead of schedule. Health News Florida (WUSF). Background from law firm Foley on the original legislation 14 March 2016

Proposed rule issued for ‘VA Anywhere to Anywhere’ telehealth cross-state care

The Department of Veterans Affairs ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ program, which would enable VA doctors to treat VA patients across state lines via telehealth and telemedicine, yesterday (2 October) published in the Federal Register the required Federal proposed rule. There is a mandated 30-day comment period (to 1 Nov). In the Federal government, these rules move faster than any legislation. From the rule: “VA has developed a telehealth program as a modern, beneficiary- and family-centered health care delivery model that leverages information and telecommunication technologies to connect beneficiaries with health care providers, irrespective of the State or location within a State where the health care provider or the beneficiary is physically located at the time the health care is provided.” PDF of rule.

VA Home Telehealth has both doctor-to-patient telemedicine and vital signs remote monitoring components. While VA is fully able to waive state licensing requirements if both the physician and the patient are in a VA clinic, because of state telemedicine laws they have not been able to provide the same care for veterans at home. VA also has a care distribution problem, with many veterans living in rural areas, at great distances from VA facilities, or with limited mobility. What this will enable is VA hiring in metro areas primary care and specialist doctors to cover veterans in rural or underserved areas and the expansion of mental health care. It also will facilitate the rollout of the VA Video Connect app for smartphones and video-equipped computers now in use by over 300 VA providers [TTA 9 Aug].

The VETS Act (Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017, S. 925) would permanently legislate this, but in the US system this type of Federal rule, in this circumstance, moves faster.  Fierce Healthcare, Healthcare Finance, mHealth Intelligence 

NHS Kernow forced to postpone telehealth end by patient legal action (updated)

Your opinion counts. Use it! (Also see below for another cut to be made) NHS Kernow, which back in July snap announced an end to telehealth monitoring for budgetary and ‘outcome proof’ reasons, has been forced to back down on ending the program by a patient’s legal action. Ian Wyness, a 55-year-old patient with a severe heart condition, took up the fight with NHS Kernow CCG, first with letters, then in the local court. NHS Kernow is now maintaining the service to over 900 patients and on 19 Sept opened up for a six-week public consultation.

According to Cornwall Live, local people will be able to share their views about the service to 7am on Wednesday 1 November through a survey distributed online at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/KCCG-TelehealthSC or returning a printed copy. Cornwall Live also lists times and locations for four public hearings, inviting users and caregivers, on 24 and 26 October. The service will be continued until a final decision is reached by the CCG–according to them, in December.

International headlines were made in July when the plight of Bodmin resident Jill Diggett, who has five serious medical conditions that have hospitalized her multiple times, but has stayed out of hospital with telehealth, went viral via Cornwall Live, many publications like TTA, and an ITV interview where she begged the CCG to ‘Let me die at home’ [TTA 7 July]. Ending her service would not only affect her and her husband’s quality of life, but also made no sense financially with the daily cost of her long hospital stays. The promise of transitioning her care to a distant Cornwall location also hadn’t been kept.

Mr. Wyness is a former RAF service member from Davidstow who had his own dramatic medical experience leading to telehealth monitoring. In one day in 2012, he had been resuscitated 14 times in three locations due to his heart condition. Telehealth now monitors his blood pressure. When monitoring staff noted a drop, he was taken to hospital ‘just in time’. When the closing was announced, Mr. Wyness went to court with the assistance of the Leigh Day firm. They made and won a legal argument that closing telehealth services without consulting with members of the public was illegal. “I decided to fight for everyone because many patients who use the service who may have dementia or may be old are unable to take on that fight.” Bravo! Hat tip and thanks to Suzanne Woodman for the follow up.

Tender Alerts: Staffordshire’s £70m contract, Yorkshire and The Humber test

Susanne Woodman, our Eye on Tenders, alerts us to two tenders, the first which will definitely pique our UK Readers’ attention with its size and duration. The second is for a proposal using TECS and telemedicine as an alternative to emergency services.

  • Staffordshire: This is a huge seven-year contract to create the Support For Independent Living In Staffordshire (SILIS) Service to enable older and disabled adults to age in place in their current homes. “A key aim of the Service is to help Individuals to make changes to their home environment that will prevent the need for more costly interventions, such as admission to hospital or residential care, following life crises.” The Service will improve upon existing services in Assistive Technology (AT) including referral to telecare providers.

There are six borough and district councils involved, with the potential for use by nine more. The contract is valued at £70 million to start April 2018 with renewal points, ending in March 2025. Deadline is Wednesday 1 November at noon. Much more information (you’ll need it) on TED EU-Tenders Electronic Daily

  • NHS Greater Huddersfield & North Kirklees CCG: This tender is for the provision of a technology-assisted, rapid access service offering an alternative to hospital-based A&E services. Market test site is in Kirklees for residents of a care home. Requirements are:
    • A 24/7 clinical teleconsultation service delivered via secure video link into residential/ nursing homes, that is utilized instead of patients having to be taken to the local A&E department.
    • A service that provides clinical consultation not a logarithm based approach like 111.
    • A fully managed technical service utilizing bespoke laptops with HD cameras and with 4G SIM or broadband.

The CCG may also commission an accountable care organization (ACO) for this care in future, to which this contract would transfer. Deadline is 5pm on Friday 20 October to brenda.powell@greaterhuddersfieldccg.nhs.uk. More information on Gov.UK.

Want to know effectiveness of telehealth, interoperability? NQF reports take their measure.

There’s been an increase in doubt about the efficacy of telemedicine (virtual visits) and telehealth (vital signs monitoring) as a result of the publication of two recent long-term studies, one conducted by the University of Wisconsin and the other by CCHSC for Telemonitoring NI [TTA 13 Sep]. These follow studies that were directionally positive, and in a few cases like the VA studies conducted by Adam Darkins, very much so, but mostly flawed or incomplete (low N, short term, differing metrics). What’s missing is a framework for assessing the results of both. In an exceptionally well-timed announcement, the National Quality Forum (NQF) announced their development of a framework for assessing the quality and impact of telehealth services. 

In a wonder of clarity, the NQF defines telehealth’s scope as telemedicine (live patient-provider video), store-and-forward (e.g. radiology), remote patient monitoring (telehealth), and mobile health (smartphone apps). Measurement covers four categories: patients’ access to care, financial impact to patients and their care team, patient and clinician experience, and effectiveness of clinical and operational systems. Within these categories, NQF identified six areas as having the highest priority for measurement: travel, timeliness of care, actionable information, added value of telehealth to provide evidence-based practices, patient empowerment, and care coordination. Finally, the developing committee identified 16 measures that can be used to measure telehealth quality.

The NQF also issued a similar framework for interoperability, a bête noire that has led many a clinician and developer to the consumption of adult beverages. Again there are four categories: the exchange of electronic health information, its usability, its application, and its impact—on patient safety, costs, productivity, care coordination, processes and outcomes, and patients’ and caregivers’ experience and engagement. And it kept the committee very busy indeed with, from the release, “53 ideas for measures that would be useful in the short term (0-3 years), in the mid-term (3-5 years) and in the long-term (5+ years). It also identified 36 existing measures that serve as representative examples of these measure ideas (sic) and how they could be affected by interoperability.”

Both reports were commissioned and funded a year ago by the US Health & Human Services Department (HHS). We will see if these frameworks are extensively used by researchers.

NQF release, Creating a Framework-Telehealth (download link), Creating a Framework-Interoperability (download link), Mobihealthnews 

Equivocal long term telemonitoring studies released by Telemonitoring NI, U. of Wisconsin

The HSC Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast have released an evaluation of the six-year (2011 – 2017) Remote Telemonitoring Service for Northern Ireland (RTNI). The Centre for Connected Health and Social Care (CCHSC) launched the Telemonitoring NI project in 2011, which enrolled over 3,900 patients with COPD, diabetes, weight management, stroke, heart failure and kidney problems in both telehealth (vital sign) and telecare (behavioral) monitoring. The study period was through 2015, but the program continues to be implemented by all five NI Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts across a range of chronic conditions. 

The Northern Ireland findings were at best equivocal. While the qualitative data gathered from patient, carer, and clinician focus groups and interviews were positive in terms of engagement and on reassurance–to be able to carry on with their lives as usual–the quantitative data did not confirm gains in effective care.

Although there were a number of testimonials from the participants in the patient focus groups regarding
reduced hospitalisations and a reduced need to attend outpatient clinics, this did not carry through to
the data obtained in the effectiveness aspect of the current evaluation. In general terms, the number
of hospitalisations, length of hospital stay and outpatient clinic attendance (and therefore overall cost
of healthcare provision) did not differ between the quasi-control ‘never installed’ group and any of the
groups who received some amount of telemonitoring. The results, where they were statistically
significant, were largely driven by an anomalous result for the heart failure ‘never installed’ group. (page 17)

The Executive Summary, Telehealth, and Telecare Reports are available for free download on the HSC R&D Division website. Many thanks to former TTA Ireland Editor Toni Bunting for the information, summary, and researching the previous TTA coverage below.

This is the second discouraging study on the long term effectiveness of patient monitoring released in the past month. A five-year, 140,000 patient/90 provider study conducted by the University of Wisconsin found that giving patients the option of telemedicine, instead of being more convenient for the provider, created new issues. It increased office visits by six percent, added 45 minutes per month of additional visit time to practices, and reduced the number of new patients seen each month by 15 percent. For the patient, the researchers found “no observable improvement in patient health between those utilizing e-visits and those who did not. In fact, the additional office visits appear to crowd out some care to those not using e-visits.” The study suggested that the telemedicine visits could be made more effective by structured questions prior to the visit. (This approach has been taken by telemedicine provider Zipnosis with adaptive online interviews and patient triage.) Mobihealthnews

Previous commentary by TTA’s Editor Emeritus Steve Hards on the procurement of the NI Remote Telemonitoring Service:

http://archive1.telecareaware.com/the-long-and-winding-road-that-leads-to-your-doorin-northern-ireland/
http://archive1.telecareaware.com/african-elephant-ecch/
http://archive1.telecareaware.com/remote-telemonitoring-northern-ireland-service-tender-long-list-mystery/
http://archive1.telecareaware.com/short-listed-companies-rtni-service/
http://archive1.telecareaware.com/northern-ireland-remote-monitoring-servicegoes-to-tf3/

 

Events: MEDICA App Competition 15 November (DE)–not too late to enter!

click to enlargeWednesday 15 November, Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre, Hall 15, 3-5pm

MEDICA 2017 (13-16 Nov) will be hosting the sixth annual MEDICA App Competition on the stage of the Connected Healthcare Forum. This is featured as the “the world’s largest live competition for the best App-based Medical Mobile Solution for use in the daily routine of a patient, a doctor or in the hospital.” 15 contestants will pitch on stage for three minutes each with an additional two minutes for the jury to submit questions. First place solution will be awarded €2,000, second €1,000 and third €500, along with the winner going to SXSW and the top three receiving Startupbootcamp (SBC) Digital Health awards.

Featured on the jury are Ashish Atreja from Mount Sinai in NYC and Ralf-Gordon Jahns of research2guidance.

Application submissions are being accepted through 30 September with notification early in October–scroll down the page for the link.

Can unused “TV white spaces” close the rural and urban broadband–and telehealth–gap?

click to enlargeThe digital divide comes one step closer to closing. Microsoft’s release of its white paper proposing an alternative to the expensive build-out of the US broadband network deserved more attention than it received in July. The Rural Broadband Strategy combines TV white spaces spectrum (the unused UHV television band spectrum in the 600 MHz frequency range which can penetrate through walls, hilly topography, and other obstacles) with fixed wireless and satellite coverage to economically deliver coverage to un/under-served areas versus fiber cable (80 percent savings) and LTE fixed wireless (50 percent).

34 million Americans lack broadband connection to the internet. Some of these are voluntary opt-outs, but 23.4 million live in rural areas without access, with huge economic consequences estimated in the hundreds of billions. TV white spaces can also expand coverage in small cities and more densely populated areas, including usages such as within buildings. This effort also presses the FCC, which in turn has pressed for broadband for two decades, to ensure that at least three channels below 700 MHz are kept unlicensed in all markets in the US, with more TV white spaces for rural areas.

The first part, the Rural Airband Initiative, builds on Microsoft’s present 20 programs worldwide, and is planned to connect 2 million people in by July 4, 2022, with 12 projects across the US running in the next 12 months. Much of the connectivity is dedicated to nonprofit efforts like 4-H’s digital literacy program and ‘precision agriculture’ in New York State and Washington. Microsoft is also granting royalty-free access to 39 patents and sample source code related to white spaces spectrum use in rural areas.

A positive move for telehealth’s spread. Rural healthcare providers pay up to three times as much for broadband as their urban counterparts. Telemedicine increasingly connects for consults between hospitals in rural areas and city-based health systems for specialty coverage and to provide assistance in specialized medical procedures. Telemedicine and telehealth remote monitoring has difficulty spreading with poor internet coverage; this has already been a barrier to patients in rural ACOs who can be 1-2 hours from the doctor’s office and notably for the VA in providing rural veterans with home telehealth support. Paramedics increasingly rely on internet connections and dropped connections lead ambulances to go to hospitals at a greater distance. If the FCC cooperates and Microsoft’s partners can find a way to profitably execute, broadband can finally achieve that promise about closing the ‘digital divide’ made back in the Clinton Administration. A Rural Broadband Strategy: Connecting Rural America to New Opportunities  The Verge, mHealth Intelligence, Becker’s Hospital Review

Tender Alert: Scotland CAN DO Challenge, Bootle needs assistive tech

This Editor thought it would be quiet for the rest of the month, but our Eye on Tenders, Susanne Woodman, has alerted us to two freshly posted–and the first is major:

  • Scotland: The tender for the CAN DO Innovation Challenge Fund – Health & Social Care Challenges is so large it is in 10 lots which offer an initial market test, an evaluation by the fund, then a decision made on whether to pursue the potential project further with the public body. There are eight that directly involve healthcare technology:
    • Point of care lab testing
    • Adopting technology for care in the north of Scotland
    • Transforming nursing care processes for the 21st century
    • Creating and driving a clinically and cost effective pathway to improve recovery after critical illness enabled by data from hospital information systems
    • An IT system for care workers and patients for adherence to stroke management plans to enable real time monitoring
    • Transforming management of people with severe COPD to improve patient outcomes and quality of life and reduce healthcare costs
    • Glasgow TECS development to support care and digital cutover
    • Develop and integrate digital services that allow for consent-driven data sharing from patient records

There is no deadline listed. More information and required document links here on Public Contracts Scotland

  • Bootle (Merseyside) and Sovini Ltd are seeking assistive technology for about 1,000 residents of its local One Vision Housing with retirement and dispersed housing. Estimated value £180,000 over 24 months. Deadline is 18 Sept at noon. More information at Delta e-Sourcing and Tenders Electronic Daily.

Tender Alert: Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust for TECS

One more from our Eye on Tenders, Susanne Woodman, is from NHS South West which is reviewing their currently in-house delivery of TECS, including monitoring, in Torbay. The Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust is seeking a fresh look at innovative services from providers who are interested and able to provide the full service from equipment, installation and monitoring, as well as bench-marking information. To review their current services and equipment (Tunstall), they helpfully provided this linkThis was posted today (15 Aug) and closes 1 September, so there’s only a short window. Refer to the Gov.UK Contracts Finder page for contact information and (importantly) document attachments.

VA’s Shulkin: Cerner rollout start by mid-2019?

An interesting short (free) article on POLITICO Morning eHealth today was an interview with VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD on the Cerner transition, stating that if all went well with negotiations later this year, VA clinicians could be using the Cerner system by mid-2019. “There’s a lot of understandable concern about whether the Cerner EHR will have the same functionality as VistA, which has evolved to the physician’s needs over the past 35 years.” One of the problems with VistA was that it wasn’t one system, it was 130 systems, which is echoed in many EHRs. POLITICO goes on to quote Dr. Shulkin: “I don’t hear as many concerns about that as I do relief about finally making a decision because people felt this was the slow death of a system that they have poured their hearts and souls into. Knowing we’re committed to doing a transition as well as we can is reassuring to people.” Sadly, the rest of the interview is paywalled on POLITICO PRO. Earlier analysis: VA says goodbye to VistA, hello to Cerner. We wonder what the involvement and engagement of the four Home Telehealth winners of the 5-year contract will be.

Weekend Big Read: will telemedicine do to retail healthcare what Amazon did to retail?

Updated. Our past contributor and TelehealthWorks’ Bruce Judson (ATA 2017 coverage) has penned this weekend’s Big Read in the HuffPost. His hypothesis is that telemedicine specifically will disrupt location-based care, followed by other digitally based care–and that executives at health systems and payers are in denial. More and more states are recognizing both parity of treatment and (usually) payment. Telemedicine also appeals to three major needs: care at home or on the go, with a minimal wait; maldistribution of care, especially specialized care; and follow-up/post-acute care. His main points in the article:

  • Healthcare executives are being taken by surprise because present digital capabilities will not be future capabilities, and the shift to virtual will be a gradual process
  • Telemedicine will address doctor shortages and grow into coordinated care platforms embedding expertise (via connected diagnostics, analytics, machine learning, AI) and care teams
  • Telemedicine will eventually go up-market and directly compete with large providers in urban areas, displacing a significant amount of in-person care with virtual care
  • Telemedicine will start to incorporate continuous feedback loops to further optimize their services and move into virtual health coaching and chronic care management
  • Telemedicine platforms are also sub-specializing into stroke response, pediatrics, and neurology
  • Centers of expertise and expert platforms will become larger and fewer–centralizing into repositories of ‘the best’
  • Platforms will be successful if they are trusted through positive patient experiences. This is a consumer satisfaction model.

Mr. Judson draws an analogy of healthcare with internet services, an area where he has decades of expertise: “A general phenomenon associated with Internet services is that they break activities into their component parts, and then reconnect them in a digital chain.” Healthcare will undergo a similar deconstruction and reconstruction with a “new set of competitive dynamics.”

It’s certainly a provocative POV that at least gives a rationale for the sheer messiness and stop-n-start that this Editor has observed in Big Health since the early 2000s. A caution: the internet, communications, and retail do not endure the sheer volume of regulatory force imposed on healthcare, which tends to make the retail analogy inexact. Governments monitor and regulate health outcomes, not search results or video downloads (except when it comes to net neutrality). It’s hard to find an industry so regulated other than financial/banking and utilities. FierceHealthcare also found the premise intriguing, noting the VA’s ‘Anywhere’ programs [TTA 9 Aug] and citing two studies indicating 96 percent of large employers plan to make telemedicine, also with behavioral health services, available, and that 20 percent of employers are seeing over 8 percent employee utilization. (Under 10 percent utilization gave RAND the vapors earlier this year with both this Editor and Mr. Judson stinging RAND’s findings with separate analyses.)

Analyses of New Jersey’s new telemedicine regulations

click to enlargeWith New Jersey’s telemedicine regulations now signed into law by Governor Christie to be effective 21 July, both providers and payers are adjusting to what the expansion means for those covered by Medicaid, Medicaid managed care, commercial health plans, and NJ state-funded health insurance. Our 27 June article reviews key points, and they are largely positive for expanding telemedicine in the (now official) Garden State. However, the payment parity part was diluted in the final version, with the in-person reimbursement rate set as the maximum ceiling for telemedicine and telehealth reimbursement rates.

Unique parts of the NJ bill require:

  • Telemedicine or telehealth organizations operating in NJ to annually register with the Department of Health
  • Submit annual reports on activity and encounter data, which will include patient race and ethnicity, diagnostic and evaluation management codes, and the source of payment for the consult (final details determined by succeeding legislation)
  • A seven-member New Jersey Telemedicine and Telehealth Review Commission
  • Mental health screeners, screening services, and screening psychiatrists are not required to obtain a separate authorization in order to engage in telemedicine or telehealth for mental health screening purposes

Full reviews of the legislation are available from law firms Foley & Lardner and in the National Law Review by an attorney from NJ firm Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla.

VA unveils several ‘anywhere’ new telehealth services for veterans

The new Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, has wasted no time since his appointment in introducing several technology and mobile-based services at the VA, all of which are long overdue in this Editor’s estimation:

  • Anywhere to Anywhere VA Health Care will authorize telehealth consults and cross-state care for veterans no matter their location and regardless of local telehealth restrictions. VA is already the largest provider of telemedicine services (called VA Telehealth) in 50 specialties to 700,000 veterans annually. This new regulation will enable VA to hire primary care and specialist doctors in metro areas to cover veterans in rural or underserved areas. 
  • Rolling out nationally over the next year is the VA Video Connect app where veterans can use their smartphones or home computers with video connections to consult with VA providers. At present 300 VA providers at 67 hospitals are using it.
  • The Veteran Appointment Request (VAR) app will also roll out from its test. It will enable veterans to use their smartphone, tablet or computer to schedule or modify appointments at VA facilities nationwide.

Dr. Shulkin advocated these programs while undersecretary, especially ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’, which required advice from the Justice Department. VA’s technology is also being supported by the American Office of Innovation to improve care transitions between the Defense Department and VA. 

President Trump participated in the announcement with Dr. Shulkin and sat in on between Albert Amescua, a 26-year Coast Guard veteran at a VA clinic in Grants Pass, Ore., and Brook Woods, a VA internist in Cleveland. VA announcement with videos, POLITICO Morning eHealth, HealthcareITNews

Charterhouse lost half its equity in Tunstall debt refinancing–Sunday Times report (updated)

click to enlargeBreaking News, even though it happened in March! See updates below. The Sunday Times (UK–sign up for limited access) broke news over the weekend that Charterhouse Capital Partners, the main investor in Tunstall Healthcare, along with other shareholders, have been forced to relinquish nearly half the equity in the company to senior lenders and management. According to their annual report on page 65, section 31**, this happened on 17 March after the close of the FY, but only now has come to light through the Sunday Times report.

The article is light on details, but our Readers who’ve followed Tunstall’s history since the Charterhouse purchase in 2008 for £530 million will not be surprised, only that this development took so long. The cold facts are that the company has been wrestling with a stunning debt burden that grew from £1.2bn in 2015 [TTA 15 Apr 16] to the Times report of £1.7bn at the end of last September, with £300m owed to lenders and £1.2bn to investors. Debt service drove their financials to a £391m pre-tax loss last year. 

The highlights of the deal as reported in the Sunday Times:

  • Senior lenders (not disclosed) received 24.9 percent of Tunstall’s shares. Management received 25 percent.
  • Charterhouse with other shareholders now have a razor-thin controlling balance of 50.1 percent. Prior to this, Charterhouse alone had 61 percent of Tunstall’s shares.
  • In return, the lenders agreed to relax covenants on their debt, termed a ‘covenant reset’.
  • Tunstall also spent £18.5m last year on an abortive attempt to sell itself for up to £700m. We noted reports in April 2016 that they rejected a £300 million (US$425 million at the time) buyout offer from private equity investment firm Triton Partners.

**For those who wish to dig deeper, Tunstall’s hard-to-find annual report through last September (but not filed until 29 March 2017)  is available through Companies House. Go to their index here and select the “Group of companies’ accounts made up to 30 September 2016” which currently is the first listing.

This will be updated as other sourced reports come in, if they do–for now, it appears that the Sunday Times has the exclusive ‘dig’. It is unfortunate since Tunstall is responsible for millions of customers and employs thousands worldwide, and has been aggressively investing in the company and technology while having a fair amount of churn in executive and director positions. Regrettably, they never capitalized on a established position in a big market when they bought AMAC in 2011, then estimated as the US’ third largest PERS company. But as this Editor closed her 2016 article, the whole category of healthcare tech, while becoming more accepted and with a few exceptions, regrettably is still mired in ‘too many players, too many segments with too many names, all chasing not enough money whether private or government.’ I will add to that equation ‘too few users’–still true among older adults and the disabled–and ‘technology that moves too fast’ to make it even more confusing and unsettled for potential buyers (obsolescence on steroids!). And ‘gadgets’, to use the Times’ wording, are among the worst culprits and victims of these factors.

Updated: Equity capital. A cautionary tale was Editor Emeritus and Founder Steve Hards’ prescient analysis of the risks that Tunstall and Charterhouse undertook in acquiring so much debt. After you read it, note the year it was published. More recent commentary on Tunstall’s financial deteriorata dating back to 2013 can be found here.