Telehealth market poised for growth, but use remains low

From Modern Healthcare:

The vast majority of U.S. patients are open to using telehealth solutions, but only a fraction have received care virtually, according to a new survey.

The Advisory Board Co.’s Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey reported more than three-quarters of nearly 5,000 respondents would see a doctor virtually, while less than 20% already have used telehealth solutions. The results suggest that the healthcare industry has yet to meet consumer interest in virtual care, researchers said.

“Direct-to-consumer virtual specialty and chronic care are largely untapped frontiers,” Emily Zuehlke, a consultant for the Advisory Board’s Market Innovation Center, said in a statement. “As consumers increasingly shop for convenient, affordable healthcare—and as payers’ interest in low-cost access continues to grow—this survey suggests that consumers are likely to reward those who offer virtual visits for specialty and chronic care.”

NRHA endorses reintroduction of Save Rural Hospitals Act to new Congress

From the NRHA:

Nearly 80 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and 673 additional facilities are vulnerable to closure — representing over 1/3 of rural hospitals in the U.S. Continued cuts to hospital payments have taken their toll, forcing closures, creating medical deserts across rural America and leaving many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care.

That’s why the National Rural Health Association supports the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act, reintroduced today to the 115th Congress by U.S Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa).

The bipartisan bill will stabilize and strengthen rural hospitals by:

  • Stopping the many cuts in Medicare that rural hospitals have endured for years,
  • Providing rural hospitals with new funding so they can provide quality primary care to rural patients across the nation, and
  • Creating a path forward for struggling rural hospitals by allowing them to provide care that makes sense in their communities and receive fair reimbursement for emergency room and primary care.

“This bill shines a light on the rural health crisis in Missouri and across the country,” says Rep. Graves. “If we accept this reality – and neglect this much needed conversation, rural hospitals in Missouri will continue to close, leaving thousands without access to health care, putting lives in jeopardy and affecting every family in rural America. That’s simply not acceptable.”

The Save Rural Hospitals Act will provide rural hospitals with financial and regulatory relief to allow them to stay open and care for rural residents who are older, poorer and have higher rates of chronic disease than their urban counterparts. CMS currently spends 2.5 percent less on rural beneficiaries than on those in urban areas.

“Rural hospitals are the lifeline for many Iowans living in rural communities,” says Rep. Loebsack. “Rural hospitals are the cornerstone of ensuring patients have access to high quality care and are a major contributor to the local economy, creating jobs in the hospital and the community. The Save Rural Hospitals Act will ensure rural patients in Iowa and across the country have the health care services they need.”

Rural Americans are facing a crisis in access to health care. If Congress doesn’t act now to prevent further closures, rural hospitals will be forced to lay off workers, cut wages, reduce services and close doors. Lives will be lost, and local economies will suffer. The average critical access hospital creates 195 jobs and generates $8.4 million in annual payroll.

“The National Rural Health Association has continuously called on Congress to stabilize rural hospitals by stopping the many cuts in Medicare that are causing rural closures and providing common-sense regulatory relief,” says NRHA CEO Alan Morgan. “We applaud Reps. Graves and Loebsack for reintroducing this bill and call for Congress to quickly pass this comprehensive legislation to save rural hospitals and ensure emergency access to care for rural patients across the nation.”

Ask your representatives to co-sponsor NRHA’s Save Rural Hospitals Act today to ensure the future of rural America.

Rural and Urban Utilization of the Emergency Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse

From the Rural Health Reform Research Center (PDF):

Overall, an estimated 43.4 million adults in the U.S. had any mental illness in 2015; 15.1 million were diagnosed with alcohol abuse.

In 2007, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported that 12.5% of all Emergency Department (ED) visits were related to mental health or substance abuse (MH/SA) (based on all-listed diagnoses).

Of those 95 million MH/SA ED visits, 4.1 million had MH/SA as the primary diagnosis.2
While research has identified general utilization and cost of emergency services for MH/SA care, little research specifically addresses rural utilization, and rural populations at greater risk of utilizing the ED for a MH/SA diagnosis.

Utilizing data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s (HCUP’s) State  Emergency Department Databases (SEDD) for seven states, researchers explored, and describe in this brief, the use of the ED for MH/SA among Urban, Large Rural, Small Rural, and Isolated Small Rural residents. The proportion of ED visits with a primary MH/SA diagnosis increased nationally. While results indicate that utilization is lower among the more rural U.S. residents, individuals utilizing the ED for MH in rural communities share different characteristics than those in urban areas, which subsequently may impact cost of care, and proposed interventions.

Telemedicine in the Emergency Department and EMTALA Compliance

From Lexology:

In Short

The Situation: Telemedicine services are a viable option for many hospital emergency departments attempting to expand the reach of their services and provide wider access to care.

The Action: As more hospitals consider the telemedicine opportunity, implementing certain policies can ensure Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act compliance.

Looking Ahead: With appropriate planning and adherence to specific operating guidelines, hospitals can effectively use telemedicine to broaden access to emergency services while remaining compliant.