April 2019 Telemedicine News
mHealth App for Juvenile Arthritis Patients Shows Promise for Youth Patient-Doctor Relationships
A new Swedish-developed mHealth app called Genia is showing promise at the University of Minnesota for fostering communication between juvenile arthritis patients and their care providers. With communication often filtered through parents, young patients can feel left out of care management coordination and plan development. And children with JIA often battle feelings of isolation yet studies have shown they are interested in managing their own health. The app allows patients to track their symptoms and communicate the way they are feeling with parents and physicians - providing a sense of empowerment over their disease.
Indiana Ocular Telehealth Lawsuit Highlights Ongoing National Battle
Visibly, a Chicago-based company that offers direct-to-consumer online eye exams, is taking the state of Indiana to court over the state’s ban of ocular telemedicine. The lawsuit highlights a national battle between ocular telehealth companies and the 11 states where connected care eye exams are banned. Even the FTC and the American Ophthalmology Association (AOA) have gotten involved with the FTC supporting consumer’s rights to affordable, easily accessible eye care services while the AOA advocates for in-person, comprehensive eye exams. Visibly’s law firm argues that the current Indiana ban over online eye exams is a protective measure for optometrists who make money selling expensive eyeglass frames out of their offices.
Telemedicine Fraud Scheme Tarnishes Telemedicine’s Promise
A $1.2 billion telemedicine Medicare fraud scheme between a handful of US telemedicine companies, dozens of durable medical equipment companies, and a few licensed medical professionals could limit patient’s trust in telemedicine and increase insurance concerns over malpractice. Recently the Department of Justice in collaboration with the IRS, the FBI, and the Department of Health and Human Services brought charges against the defendants for scamming Medicare beneficiaries into purchasing medically unnecessary orthopedic braces, paying telemedicine companies to unnecessarily prescribe the braces, and then using the proceeds to launder money and purchase luxury items. The global scheme has some wondering about the effects on the telemedicine industry at large and patient confidence in telemedicine.
Reports Show Marked Increase in Telemedicine Consumer Usage and Physician Adoption
Reports by nonprofit FAIR Health and telemedicine company American Well reveal the marked growth of the telemedicine industry in the past few years. FAIR Health, owner of the nation’s largest collection of private healthcare claims data, found that telehealth claims grew 53% YOY from 2016 to 2017 outpacing all other sites of care. While American Well, in a report conducted by third party researchers at M3 Global Research, reports physician telemedicine adoption grew by 340% from 2015 to 2018. This data further substantiates commentary that the telemedicine industry has reached its tipping point, and that the industry is on the cusp of widespread usage and adoption by consumers and providers alike.
Study Highlights Importance of Telemedicine Provider Caution When Prescribing Juveniles Antibiotics
A study by investigators at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh published in the journal Pediatrics found that telemedicine providers were much more likely to prescribe antibiotics to children for respiratory conditions than those at in-person urgent or primary care appointments. (52% telemedicine vs. 42% urgent care and 31% primary care) The primary researcher told MD Magazine that while she is “excited about the ways that technology innovations can improve access to care for children, it’s important to make sure that children continue to receive high-quality care regardless of how that care is delivered.” The findings were not reflected in adult prescribing habits as shown in a separately published study, indicating that telemedicine providers may be encountering more uncertainty when conducting pediatric visits.
Best Buy to Sell Home Telemedicine Device to Consumers
TytoCare, an Israeli company, will be selling a handheld consumer telehealth device at select Best Buy stores that can examine the heart, lungs, ears, throat, abdomen, and skin. The device retails for $299 and claims to remotely diagnose ear infections, sore throats, fevers, colds, flu, allergies, rashes, stomachaches, and more. The device is meant for the home, allowing patients to perform comprehensive medical exams and then use the TytoHome app to send the data and connect with a healthcare provider for a video consult. Currently available online for nationwide purchase, could this be the next big thing in consumer-driven healthcare?