ATA2017 dispatch: Devices and doom

click to enlargeBruce Judson, our guest ATA 2017/Telehealth 2.0 reporter, is a bestselling author of books on business and technology issues in the evolving digital era. This is the third and final article this week he’s written from the ATA floor. Mr. Judson writes frequently for The Huffington Post. More on about him may be found in our review of his critique of the RAND telehealth study [25 Mar].

This Editor agrees with his POV that drowning doctors in more and more data, whether previously accessible or not, isn’t a way forward to a successful business model. The current data is overwhelming–and not interoperable with EHRs. More and more data, looking for a home….

Orlando, April 26. Yesterday, I set aside several hours to walk by the booths of the 200+ exhibitors at the ATA show. As I slowly walked the Exhibit Hall, I was struck by the large number of in-home telehealth patient monitoring devices. (Names are omitted to protect the innocent.)

Colleagues had similar reactions. When I asked about exhibitors, the most common response was “I had no idea there were so many new telehealth monitoring devices that are FDA approved or in the process of obtaining approval.”

As I wandered from booth to booth, I was also struck by the failure of so many, if not most, monitoring device manufacturers to focus on the practical uses of their truly revolutionary technologies. At each monitoring device booth, I asked the same question, “How will the data be used?”  All too often, the answer was, “We provide daily patient data for physicians that have never been accessible before, and doctors receive daily graphs.”

My follow-up questions were always, “You believe busy doctors will look at data on their large patient population each day? Why don’t you provide alerts?” Again, there was a frequent answer, which was some variation of “Yes, now doctors can see daily events which will lead to extraordinary improvements in health outcomes, and we don’t want to create alert fatigue” (false positives that suggest a problem where one does not exist).

In my view, monitoring devices without suites of robust predictive analytics will fail. Doctors are already too busy, and anything that adds to their workload is immediately suspect. Moreover, we still live in a fee for service world, and now we are talking about new, uncompensated work.

As Jonathan Linkous said to me on the first day of the ATA show, “the technology is a tool to provide the service,” not the service itself. Patient monitoring device firms must realize they are offering a service. To succeed, their services must provide actionable analysis, not more and more data. If alerts are ready for prime time, then doctors will value the devices: They can rely on the associated algorithms to indicate when an intervention (also to be compensated) is needed.

Moreover, I strongly suspect doctors would prefer a few false alerts, with algorithms biased toward safety and results that can be quickly checked via the underlying data, as compared to wading through charts looking for anomalies.

A fundamental question for anyone is “what business are you really in?” To succeed, many of the ATA exhibitors need to reorient themselves from the business of providing great technology to the business of providing great service enabled by technology.

Mr. Judson’s first article, a discussion with ATA’s Jonathan Linkous on business models for telehealth is here. The second article on Mercy Health’s catalyzing telehealth innovation at the hospital level is here.

ATA2017 dispatch: Catalyzing telehealth innovation in hospital organizations

Bruce Judson, our guest ATA 2017/Telehealth 2.0 reporter, is a bestselling author of books on business and technology issues in the evolving digital era. This is the second article this week from the ATA floor. Mr. Judson writes frequently for The Huffington Post. More on about him may be found in our review of his critique of the RAND telehealth study [25 Mar]. His discussion with ATA’s Jonathan Linkous on business models for telehealth is here.

Orlando, April 25. At the ATA show, I stopped at Mercy’s booth, and spoke with Keela Davis, who is Mercy’s Executive Director, Innovation and Product Development. In the booth, was a large, inspirational display of Mercy Virtual’s high-tech, widely-reported $54 millionhospital without beds.” The facility is the nerve center for Mercy Virtual’s telemedicine programs, which include TeleICU (remote monitoring of ICUs by Mercy specialists) as well as multiple other remote services for patients in hospitals and at home.

A great deal has been written about Mercy’s groundbreaking service and large investment in this facility. I asked Davis what led to the decision to build “the hospital without beds.” She said that first, a lot of experience in telehealth proceeded the investment decision. Undoubtedly this experience was required to simply decide what should be built in a facility designed for the technology that exists today and that will undoubtedly accommodate new technologies as they arise. Second, she also said, that it reflected “a visionary” decision on the part of Mercy’s leadership to make this commitment. Now, in her words, the facility has become “a symbol of our work.”

As a student of innovation, our discussion was notable on several fronts:

First, Davis noted that now that the facility exists it serves as a catalyst for innovation. Mercy is actively considering, as might be expected, a range of new telehealth services. While Davis was quick to point out that the facility was not the only source of telehealth innovation at Mercy, she did indicate it’s the hub for innovative ideas and discussions. Organizations build on their experience, their successes, and the demonstrated commitment of management to move forward with good ideas. Mercy’s facility now provides the tangible place that facilitates ongoing growth. In short, after conquering the first level of innovation, Mercy is poised to march forward with new, groundbreaking services.

Mercy’s facility is also a warning to organizations that see the telehealth future, but hesitate to act. As Mercy gains experience, it will have a team that understands the many, complex aspects of assessing and bringing new services to market. Plus, many of the underlying capital and investment requirements associated with creating these services have already happened. In short, it will soon be difficult for other healthcare entities eyeing services in the same arenas to match Mercy’s innovation machine.

ATA2017 dispatch: The future is about business models and the consumer

Bruce Judson, our guest ATA 2017/Telehealth 2.0 reporter, is a bestselling author of books on business and technology issues in the evolving digital era. This is the first of several articles this week. Mr. Judson writes frequently for The Huffington Post. More on about him may be found in our review of his critique of the RAND telehealth study [25 Mar].

Orlando, April 24. Yesterday, the annual convention of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) moved into full swing. At noon, Jonathan Linkous, ATA’s CEO, took a few minutes to talk with me. During our wide-ranging discussion, three notable themes emerged:

First and perhaps most important, Mr. Linkous believes that the future development of telehealth now stands with establishing viable business models. In his view, the speed of growth of the industry now depends on how the many participants in the healthcare system develop business models that lead to appropriate investments. He noted that this contrasts with the general focus on the evolving technology. Of course, the technology will continue to evolve and major advancements will occur for the foreseeable future. But, Mr. Linkous strongly believes that “the technology is here today.” In short, it’s now about how the technology is used and deployed. New advances will be incorporated into services and infrastructure as they occur. But, the past, telehealth is now moving into mainstream investment discussions. In his view, the leaders of every health organization are now assessing the role telehealth will play in the services they offer, and the investments they need to make now.  Now, it’s about making it work. We are no longer waiting for the technology to be viable.

Second, Mr. Linkous commented on the hype surrounding the industry. He was frank in recognizing that, as with all exciting, transformative industries, the hype cycle is in full swing. One telling comment: “Unlike the past, the industry now has real revenues,” with rapidly growing businesses. In short, we may not be past the hype, but the industry is quickly moving to fulfill realistic expectations.

Finally, Mr. Linkous concluded that the future growth of the telehealth industry would largely depend on the consumer. He cited a variety of factors: the growth of value-based care, the emerging influence of millennials who are comfortable with technology, and the overall consumerization of medicine.

Many industry participants have described themselves to me as B2B businesses. Undoubtedly, they are. It’s hard to refute Linkous’s conclusion: Ultimately, the growth of the industry, like the evolution of healthcare itself, will depend on consumer choices.

A analysis–and challenging takedown–of the RAND telehealth cost study (updated)

A must read on telemedicine and telehealth cost. One of our Readers, Bruce Judson, commented on our earlier coverage of RAND Health’s new study published in Health Affairs [TTA 8 Mar] finding that telemedicine virtual visits (here called telehealth) drove up utilization of care by 88 percent and cost by $45 per year for respiratory illnesses that typically resolved on their own.

He has written his own analysis based on the full study. Telehealth Costs: RAND’s Questionable Rant (Huffington Post), considers the full study and compares it to a 2014 RAND study by the same authors. Mr Judson notes inconsistencies in sampling and definitions; the illogical attachment of a waiting period cost (77 minutes=$30) to a telehealth visit (perhaps to level it with an office visit?); the misinterpretation of results; small sample size; and the fact that the CalPERS sample is ancient (2011-13), representative of a time when telemedicine (here provided by Teladoc) was a new notion. There are inconsistencies with an earlier RAND study based on the same data! (He does not count in costs outside the study such as lost time at work or the cost of spreading infection to co-workers.)

Mr Judson, after many years in publishing, digital marketing and strategy (from when it was called ‘new media’), and currently an advisor to a UK firm investing in IoT, has cast his lot with us in health tech, heading a firm in the Hudson Valley of NY, Telehealthworks, which markets an employer telemedicine and wellness program called freshbenies. While he discloses that he’s not a disinterested observer or researcher, he has that in common with most of our Readers, who are very interested in determining the truth about costs and savings. He gives many reasons to be skeptical of the RAND findings.

Dubai launches RoboDoc based telemedicine service

Almost exactly 14 months to the day since the press release announcing a pilot of a click to enlargetelemedicine service, the first patient is said to have undergone treatment using the Dubai Health Authority’s RoboDoc telemedicine system according to Middle East North Africa Financial Network. The patient was based in Hatta Hospital and the respiratory specialists were based at Rashid Hospital Trauma Centre according to the report. RoboDoc units, from InTouch Health,  have also been installed at two primary care centres in Dubai.

In a previous TTA article this editor expressed surprise that telehealth would be of interest to Dubai which is only 1600 square miles in area. Having considered the details of the implementation the interest is partially explained by the fact that Hatta is an outpost separated from the rest of Dubai, 135 km (84 miles) from Rashid Hospital.

However, the other two centres at which the RoboDoc devices have been installed, Al Bashar Health Centre (15 miles from Rashid Hospital) and Nad Al Hammar Health Centre (7 miles from Rashid) (more…)

Is telemedicine attractive to hypochondriacs?

An article in MIT Technology Review takes a sideways look at telemedicine and asks if telemedicine is providing an easy route for people suffering from excessive anxiety about their health. The author, Christina Farr, suggests that the ease of contacting a doctor using telemedicine services in comparison to having to visit a doctor’s office and the ability use either insurance or direct payments makes these services more attractive to hypochondriacs (lately called those with somatic symptom disorder).
Views on the subject are quoted from the chief medical affairs officer at MDLive, Deborah Mulligan, and a board member of Doctor on Demand, Bob Kocher. While the first is able to relate an anecdote where a case of excessive anxiety disorder was identified and successfully referred to cognitive behavioral therapy, the latter says he isn’t aware of any patients with health anxiety regularly using the Doctor on Demand app.

Read the full article here.

West Virginia considers expanding prescription medication via telemedicine

The West Virginia legislature has been considering a new bill to expand the range of medications that may be prescribed in a telemedicine encounter. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives last week and sent to the Senate for consideration.

The House Bill 2509 proposes to amend the West Virginia Medical Practice Act to enable physicians to prescribe certain controlled substances when using telemedicine technologies. According to Mobihealthnews this would specifically include medication for mental and behavioral health, although bill itself does not refer to these conditions. A note at the end of the bill states “The purpose of this bill is to permit a physician to prescribe certain controlled substances when using telemedicine technologies.”

It seems that the legislation in the US dealing with telemedicine is fragmented and becoming more so. There was the issue of whether health insurance companies would cover telemedicine consultations, then the issue of medicare and medicaid covering the telemedicine consultations, then the state medical boards refusing cross border telemedicine and now issues on individual medications that can or can’t be prescribed. This will make it increasingly difficult for those practitioners who decide to enter the telemedicine arena.It is not a sustainable approach to pass a new law on every issue relating to telemedicine. Telemedicine is merely medicine practiced via a different route and regulation and standardisation of processes associated with telemedicine should be divested to a suitably established agency overseen by the legislature, similar to how the medical boards operate. In fact, this could easily be an additional responsibility given to the medical boards.

Telemedicine may drive up medical utilization, increase cost for respiratory illness: RAND Health

click to enlargeIs convenience the culprit? Researchers from RAND Corporation’s Health program conducted a three-year study of telemedicine (here called telehealth) usage by employees of CalPERS for respiratory illness and came to a surprising conclusion. From the study abstract: “12 percent of direct-to-consumer telehealth visits replaced visits to other providers, and 88 percent represented new utilization. Net annual spending on acute respiratory illness increased $45 per telehealth user.”

The study examined 2011-2013 claims information for over 300,000 people insured through the California California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which despite the name provides health benefits to active state employees as well as retirees. It targeted common acute respiratory infections (sinus infections, bronchitis and related) to determine patterns of provider utilization and the change after the introduction of telehealth. Of that group, 981 used the Teladoc system for video consults, adopted by CalPERS in 2012.

The objective of the study was to determine whether the telehealth visits were new care or substituted for other types of care such as doctor, clinic, or ED visits. Even though the telehealth services were far cheaper–about 50 percent lower than a physician office visit and less than 5 percent the cost of a visit to the ED–they did not make up for the calculated 88 percent rise in utilization.

Similar results were reported by RAND in last year’s research on retail clinics, which estimated that 58 percent of visits for low-severity illnesses were new and not shifted from EDs or doctor’s offices. What is in common? Convenience. Convenience opens up greater use. If you have a store down the street, you may pop in daily versus once-weekly.

Updated: Some further insights from Mobihealthnews were that the study stated that telehealth visits may be more likely to result in additional costs, such as follow-up appointments, testing or prescriptions. In other words, the telehealth visit starts off less expensive, but the standard of care in follow-up adds to that initial cost.

The RAND recommendation is thus not a surprise: make more telemedicine visits a shift from office or ED to restrict telemedicine growth. Raise the cost of co-pays for the service to reduce demand. On the ‘high side’, encourage ED ‘frequent flyers’ to use telehealth services instead. Pass the painkillers. Health Affairs (abstract only; paid access required for full study), RAND Health press release.

Analysis: instead of self-doctoring, and suffering at home and in the workplace, the small group of CalPERS policyholders in the study actually used their new benefit to check their health–as intended! The additional cost is not staggering; (more…)

Idaho legislature begins repeal of telemedicine abortion ban

An agreement reached in the U.S. District Court in Idaho in click to enlargeJanuary this year overturned Idaho’s ban of prescription of abortion-inducing drugs during a telemedicine consultation (see our previous article).

The settlement of the case before Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, brought by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, required the Idaho legislature to repeal the laws that made such prescriptions over telemedicine consultations illegal. The repeals have to be carried out by the end of the 2017 session, else Judge Winmill will declare the laws unconstitutional and unenforceable, according to Mobi Health News .

Idaho legislature has accordingly started the process of removing the single line from the Telehealth Access Act which bans the prescription of abortion inducing drugs and repealing the law requiring the doctor to be physically present at the consultation when prescribing the drugs. This is to be achieved via the new House Bill 250, sponsored by the State Affairs Committee, named simply An Act relating to Abortion. The bill was introduced last Friday.

The wording of the bill emphasises the the view that the state believes that abortions induced by medicines prescribed via telemedicine consultations constitute “substandard medical care and that women and girls undergoing abortion deserve and require a higher level of professional medical care”. Planned Parenthood has said that it objects to this statement that telemedicine provides substandard care according to Boise Weekly.

The bill has made rapid progress having had its second reading yesterday and is currently filed for the third reading.

Debate on Care Quality Commission’s position on online prescription services on Radio 4’s TODAY (UK)

Friday’s BBC Radio 4 TODAY breakfast show has two segments discussing the Care Quality Commission‘s public warning on online prescription services and potential danger to patients. The first is a short interview of Jane Mordue, Chair of Healthwatch England and independent member of the CQC (at 00:36:33-00:39:00). The second, longer segment at 02:37:00 going to 02:46:30 features our own Editor Charles Lowe, in his position as Managing Director of the Digital Health and Care Alliance (DHACA), debating with Sandra Gidley, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Board. The position of the RPS is that a face-to-face appointment is far preferable to an online service, whereas Mr Lowe maintains that delays in seeing one’s GP creates a need for services where a patient can see a doctor online and receive a prescription if necessary. The quick response allays anxiety in the patient and provides care quickly. Both agreed that a tightening of guidelines is needed, especially in the incorrect prescribing of antibiotics, and that there is no communication between patient records. Mr Lowe notes that GPs have always been comfortable with a telephonic consultation but are far less so with telemedicine consults via Skype. Here’s the BBC Radio 4 link available till end of March.

In the US with 24/7/365 telemedicine services such as Teladoc, MDLive and American Well, there is a similar problem with patient records in many cases except for history that the patient gives, but this is an across the board problem as the US does not have a centralized system. The prescribing problem is less about antibiotics, though MRSA/MSSA resistant superbugs are a great concern. According to Jeff Nadler, CTO of Teladoc during his #RISE2017 presentation here in NY attended by this Editor, Teladoc has a 91 to 94 percent resolution rate on patient medical issues. Of that 9 percent unresolved, 4 percent are referred, 2 percent are ‘out of scope’, 1 percent go to ER/ED–and 2 percent of patients are ‘seeking meds only’, generally for painkillers. Teladoc’s model is B2B2C, which is that patients access the service through their health plan, health system, or employer.

Utah telehealth expansion bill passes Senate and House

The bill to expand telehealth in Utah, which was amended by a click to enlargeUtah Senate committee on February 14th (see previous TTA article) has now been passed by both the Senate and the House of Representative in the state. The amended bill was passed by the Senate on Thursday last week and by the House the next day according to the Utah government website.

The original bill, HB154, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, had a controversial clause restricting the prescription of abortion medication during a telemedicine consultation. The amendment removed this restriction on the basis that such restrictions have been successfully challenged in the courts in other states.

The bill is now being “enrolled” and is expected to be signed into law in due course.

HIMSS17 dispatches: Mayo maps neonate telemedicine, Amwell-Samsung, Samsung-T-Mobile

Mayo maps out an enterprise telehealth (telemedicine) support structure. Here’s how the Mayo Clinic deployed neonatology remote telemedicine to their sites in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida. There’s plenty of flow charts and summary points in this presentation deck around team building, staffing consistently and reporting that improves processes. Hat tip to our HIMSS correspondent on the scene, Bill Oravecz of Stone Health Innovations. Update: If you are using Chrome, you may have difficulty downloading session handouts from the HIMSS17 website Schedule pages. Try another browser. If you are interested, you may be able to obtain through contacting the two session presenters, Susan Kapraun and Jenna A. Beck, MHA, directly.

American Well and Samsung are partnering on integrating care delivery. Their joint release is low on details, but towards the end there’s an indication that American Well, its partners, and other providers and payers will be able to offer their services to Samsung customers. Other reports (Healthcare Dive) indicate the partnership is destined to enhance Amwell’s Exchange platform between payers and providers. Partners listed are Cleveland Clinic, New York-Presbyterian Medical Center and Anthem (undoubtedly resting after sparring with Cigna). Also Healthcare IT News.

Separately, Samsung also announced a partnership with T-Mobile for developing IoT in the senior care space. This would pair Samsung’s ARTIK Cloud with T-Mobile’s cellular network for Breezie, a social engagement for seniors interface built on a Samsung tablet which has apps and connects to various peripherals for post-acute care and daily living. It sounds interesting, but once again the release hampers the reporter by being as clear as mud in what it’s all about. See if you can decipher this: ARTIK Cloud permits “Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, iHealth Feel Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor and the Pulse Oximeter – to intelligently communicate with each other.” “Each Breezie interface has more than 40 preconfigured accessibility settings and sensor driven analytics to adjust for different levels of digital literacy, as well as physical and cognitive ability.” The Breezie website is far more revealing. Healthcare Dive also takes a whack at it towards the end of the above article.

HIMSS17 dispatch: developing a telehealth IT team in health system and multi-site networks

Reader Bill Oravecz of Stone Health Innovations is attending HIMSS17 in Orlando, and was kind enough to forward a ‘hot off the presses’ link to this presentation deck given by Jay Weems of Avera eCARE (downloadable as PDF). The subject is ‘Telehealth Workforce Offers Unique Competencies & Opportunities’ and covers how telehealth/telemedicine IT is developed in a health system, mentoring rural originating sites in building proficiencies, and Avera’s experience in supporting a 13-state, multi-system, multi-specialty network. This is more about telemedicine (virtual consults) but offers lessons in developing both in a B2B model.

Update If you are using Chrome, you may have difficulty downloading session handouts from the HIMSS17 website Schedule pages. Try another browser.

Tender up: NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG (UK) seeking telemedicine for care homes

Susanne Woodman, our Eye on Tenders, has located a London-based one on Ted.Europa.eu worth your notice.

Who: NHS Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), on behalf of the North West London Clinical Commissioning Groups comprising of NHS Central London CCG, NHS West London CCG, NHS Hounslow CCG, NHS Ealing CCG, NHS Brent CCG, NHS Harrow CCG and NHS Hillingdon CCG is seeking to appoint a provider to deliver a 24/7, 365 day per year Telemedicine-clinical support function to support care homes initially across Central London, West London, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow and Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group (CWHHE CCGs) areas.

What for: A provider to deliver a 24/7, 365 day per year telemedicine-clinical support function to support care homes initially across Central London, West London, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow and Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group (CWHHE CCGs) areas.

  • This facility will be introduced to 43 residential and nursing homes across the geography covered by the CWHHE CCGs, with a phased implementation over the 3 years of the programme.
  • If the service is successful, the CCGs reserve the right to extend the provision to include residential and nursing homes and patients and carers living outside care homes in the NHS Brent CCG, NHS Harrow CCG and NHS Hillingdon CCG areas.

Tender receipt date: March 8, 2017 at 12pm

Value excluding VAT: £7 900 000.00

The procurement documents are available for unrestricted and full direct access, free of charge, at http://nhssbs.eu-supply.com (log in required)

Tender/RFI up: two more from EU-Supply (UK, IRL)

Susanne Woodman, our Reader who is our Eye on Tenders, has located two new tenders available on the EU-Supply site:

(NHSSBS)Telemedicine Advice and Guidance Service Deadline is 8 March 2017. Documents are attached and available after registration and log in. Contact Greg Reide, phone: +44-161-2123701

(CTM) Pobal on behalf of the Department of the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government invites responses from organisations for the purpose of market research. This is a Request for Information and not a tender process. This is a market sounding exercise to obtain market information in respect of Telecare Equipment in relation to the Seniors Alert Scheme. Please refer to the Request for Information document which is available via this notice. Submissions should be sent to procurement@pobal.ie on or before 3.00pm, on Thursday the 2nd March 2017. Registration and log in required for further information.

NY’s Northwell Health Home Care partners with HRS for telehealth tablets

click to enlargeNew York State’s largest health system, Northwell Health, is partnering with Hoboken, New Jersey-based (and Blueprint Health grad) telehealth provider Health Recovery Systems (HRS) on introducing their tablets into their Home Care Network. The picture at left is of Bernard Feinstein, a 100-year-old Queens-resident Northwell Health patient, who seems to be easily using and handling the touchscreen tablet. HRS tablets are video-enabled for consults and monitor vital signs, connecting via Bluetooth to devices: stethoscope (heart and lung), pulse oximeter , blood pressure, and weight scale. If one enjoys examples of pretzel logic, the release states that Northwell’s telehealth implementation is one of the first–of Bluetooth-enabled monitoring in NY State home care and the first on Long Island. (Cable-connected telehealth systems have been commonplace since 2003, including Northwell’s home care.) The HRS partnership follows on Northwell Ventures’ $1 million Series A investment in Virginia-based telemedicine provider Avizia. Innovate LI,