Top 3 Federal Efforts to Expand Telehealth in 2024

Healthcare organizations driven by common goals—improving patient outcomes, increasing patient satisfaction, reducing the cost of care, and minimizing hospital readmissions—are turning to telehealth to address these multi-faceted challenges. What’s more, federal legislators have observed a need and have stepped up efforts to expand access and improve the quality of existing services.

Remote services enhance patient accessibility, enable personalized treatment, and foster preventative care measures. And with a  94 percent patient approval rating, telehealth has become a reliable tool in overcoming healthcare’s most persistent challenges. Telehealth Awareness Week, from September 17-23, 2023, is an opportunity to consider how telemedicine is evolving to achieve these goals and ensure access to quality care for all.

How Does Telehealth Work?

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth services, but with this rapid expansion, there has also been a significant amount of confusion around what exactly constitutes virtual care. The traditional definition of telehealth refers to the use of technology for remote healthcare delivery or consultation between patients and healthcare professionals.

In the wake of the pandemic, this definition seems to have evolved, encompassing synchronous video appointments, including consultations by phone, and asynchronous methods such as secure messaging and remote patient monitoring.  

The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) sought to clarify the confusion surrounding the definition of telehealth. According to CCHP, the technology underpinning telehealth encompasses four key components:

  1. Live video conferencing: Allows real-time, two-way interaction between patients and providers, enabling remote consultations and virtual visits.
  2. Store-and-forward: Involves the transmission of recorded health information, such as images or medical records, to healthcare providers for review and evaluation at any time.
  3. Remote patient monitoring (RPM): Enables the collection of personal health data from individuals in one location using electronic communication technologies. This data is then transmitted to healthcare providers in a different location for monitoring, management, and support, which is particularly beneficial for patients with chronic conditions or in post-operative recovery.
  4. Mobile health (mHealth): Utilizes mobile communication technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices to deliver healthcare practice education and support. This category includes various applications such as mobile health tracking, telemedicine apps, and health-related automated messaging services.

Federal Efforts to Expand and Support Telehealth in 2024

The definition of telehealth is not merely semantics; it carries significant implications for healthcare providers, policymakers, and insurers. This lack of clarity can lead to uncertainty around billing codes, reimbursement rates, and regulatory frameworks.

Furthermore, as new technologies emerge, such as augmented intelligence, machine learning, and wearable devices for remote monitoring, it becomes even more challenging to draw a definitive line on what constitutes telehealth.

Despite these challenges, federal regulators have recently introduced three initiatives to expand access to telehealth:

How Remote, Mobile Technologies Improve Telehealth Services

Meanwhile, remote patient monitoring and mobile health technologies have enhanced telehealth services, providing new avenues for health systems and providers to deliver quality care to patients and meet underserved needs in their communities. These advancements have not only enhanced the accessibility of healthcare but also improved the accuracy and efficiency of data collection and healthcare data analytics.

Through remote patient monitoring and mobile technologies, doctors can track vital signs and collect essential health data in real time without patients needing to visit a hospital or clinic. This has led to more comprehensive and continuous monitoring of patient’s health conditions, enabling timely interventions and improved outcomes, as demonstrated in the following use cases:

Enhancing Prescription Medication Administration

Credena Health incorporated Twistle to streamline medication refills and patient follow-up, optimizing medication management for complex conditions. Automated refill reminders and communication pathways improved medication adherence and reduced phone call volume, leading to a 57 percent decrease in the time it took to refill prescription medications. It also led to a 4.4 percent increase in specialty medication adherence with a 95 percent patient adoption rate.

Empowering Hypertension Management

Family Doctors and Ashley Clinic embraced remote monitoring and digital pathways to address hypertension management challenges. Twistle enabled patients to track their blood pressure readings and receive guidance through daily secure message reminders. This empowered patients to engage in their care, resulting in a 22 percent improvement in blood pressure control, better patient outcomes, and a positive ROI of $7,000 per provider per year. 

Delivering Convenience, Access, and Improved Patient Care

The significance of remote care technology lies in its ability to generate vast amounts of valuable patient data previously unattainable on such a scale and convenience. Collecting and analyzing this data provides clinicians and executives with insights into population health trends, disease patterns, medication adherence, and various other aspects critical for evidence-based decision-making. By harnessing this information through remote patient monitoring and mobile health technologies, healthcare leaders can improve clinical workflows and enhance patient outcomes on a broader scale when combined with telehealth services.

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