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Legislators Float Bipartisan Bill to Safeguard Telehealth




A group of legislators from the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee have introduced a bill aimed at temporarily extending telehealth flexibilities established during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, the Telehealth Extension Act, would also end geographic and site restrictions on approved telemedicine services for Medicare beneficiaries.

“Expanded access to telehealth, permitted by emergency waivers, has transformed healthcare delivery – helping patients connect easily and safely with their physicians in a timely manner. As the pandemic enters an unpredictable new stage and emergency waivers may expire, patients and providers should not face a cliff of uncertainty,” Subcommittee Chair Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said in a statement.

“This forward-looking bill, based on expert, independent recommendations, provides clarity, certainty, and a foundation for building a telemedicine system that expands access, preserves patient choice and includes basic safeguards against fraud and exploitation,” said Doggett.


Despite being broadly popular on both sides of the aisle, Congress has yet to approve the geographic- and site-related Medicare provisions the new bill would establish.

Meanwhile, the proposed two-year extension of COVID-19 era telemedicine waivers seems to give elected officials some breathing room with regard to permanent telehealth policy.

The extension would allow clinicians like speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists to provide telehealth services; enable critical access hospitals to furnish virtual outpatient behavioral therapy services; and allow payment for appropriate audio-only services.

“Throughout the pandemic, telehealth has proven time and again to deliver high-quality care to individuals regardless of where they live,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona. “This legislation is a critical step to increase accessibility, improve outcomes and equip our nation with the tools it needs to respond to future emergencies.”

In addition, legislators say the Telehealth Extension Act would ensure federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, Indian Health Service facilities and Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems can provide telehealth services.

It also aims to address concerns regarding fraud by requiring an in-person appointment within six months of ordering high-cost durable medical equipment or major clinical laboratory tests, authorizing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to audit outlier physicians, and requiring providers to use their own national provider identifier when billing Medicare for a telehealth service.

Finally, the bill provides broad authority for CMS to authorize future telehealth flexibilities in a disaster.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how rural Americans receive health care in fundamental ways,” said Rep. Mike Kelly, D-Pennsylvania. “Seniors can now see their doctor from the comfort of their own homes, and families can visit the doctor on hours that work for their schedule. Unfortunately, many of the telehealth flexibilities families have come to rely on are going to expire.

“This bill extends those, then goes further to lower barriers to healthcare for rural and underserved areas,” Kelly said.

Lawmakers note that the bill is endorsed by a wide range of organizations, including Healthcare IT News parent company HIMSS, eHealth Initiative, the National Rural Health Association, the National Association of Rural Health Clinics, the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Heart Association and the American Nurses Association, among others.


Lawmakers have introduced numerous telemedicine-related bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, but none have managed to gain serious traction.

The CONNECT for Health Act, introduced in April and sponsored by 50 senators, is still in committee, as is the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2021 in the House.

Policies to expand broadband access, which would indirectly enable telehealth, have been somewhat more successful.


“Telehealth is a cost-effective and efficient way to deliver health care, particularly for rural and underserved areas,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California.

“I am proud to join Chairman Doggett in introducing the Telehealth Extension Act, important bipartisan legislation to make telehealth available for more patients, no matter where they receive care,” said Thompson.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.


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Health Care

PatientBond, Vizient Team up for Digital Behavior Change Tools




Patient engagement SaaS provider PatientBond and healthcare performance improvement and analytics company Vizient are partnering up to provide Vizient member healthcare organizations with digital patient engagement and behavior change programs.

WHY IT MATTERSPatientBond’s digital engagement workflows can be personalized with psychographic insights, with the aim of activating patient behaviors and driving improved patient engagement and outcomes.

Through the partnership, Vizient’s customer base, which includes academic medical centers, pediatric facilities, and community hospitals, will offer programming including care gap closures, condition specific messaging, screenings and appointment reminders and appropriate use communications.

The aim of the programs is to reduce hospital readmissions and improve digital health risk assessments.

Other programs included in the deal will provide psychographically segmented marketing campaigns to advance patient/member activation, as well as patient and physician matching or find a doctor services based on psychographic insights.

The deal will also provide extensive market research insights and dynamic payment reminders for partners.

THE LARGER TRENDPatient-reported outcomes are a critical way to assess the ongoing state of patient health and satisfaction, and a growing number of digital tools are helping them do so.

The financial upside for care providers is also noteworthy: Jackson Hospital significantly improved its finances with digital patient engagement tools, switching from letters and phone calls to automated emails and text messages along with some help from analytics.

At Rush University Medical Center, the hospital has deployed similar digital tools to reduce the strain of avoidable readmissions and ED recidivism when resources already were at capacity.

Last year, Cardinal Health announced the launch of a digital patient engagement platform aimed at addressing medication adherence challenges – a significant issue for the health industry and patients.

In 2019, Vizient collaborated with Civica Rx on provider needs analytics data to reduce Rx costs. By providing insights into purchasing patterns and provider needs through its analytics and data capabilities, Vizient helped Civica Rx anticipate gaps in drug availability and affordability.

ON THE RECORD“PatientBond brings consumer science and dynamic intervention technologies to healthcare with unmatched clinical and business results,” said PatientBond CEO Justin Dearborn in a statement. “Vizient’s member healthcare organizations can benefit from PatientBond’s personalized patient engagement at scale with proven and consistent results.”

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.comTwitter: @dropdeaded209

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LifePoint Health Inks Data Deal With Health Catalyst




Brentwood, Tennessee-based LifePoint Health has entered a new collaboration with Health Catalyst and will use its analytics technologies to help bolster care quality, lower costs and improve population health management.

WHY IT MATTERSLifePoint Health will integrate Health Catalyst’s data operating system and analytics tools to gather performance metrics and drive improvements in healthcare quality, reporting and operational and financial decision-making.

By discovering and sharing clinical data, the partnership will help reduce variation in clinical outcomes. Health Catalyst’s tools dovetail with LifePoint’s national quality and facility recognition program goals to measurably improve patient care, safety and satisfaction as well as improve access and lower costs, according to the company.

In addition to the cloud-based data platform, LifePoint will use Health Catalyst’s analyzer, insights, AI, patient safety monitoring and data entry applications. The suite of tools can help increase organizational speed and interoperability, according to Health Catalyst.


While healthcare organizations are just beginning to scratch the surface of using data to drive improvements, according to Health Catalyst President Patrick Nelli, the company’s strategic acquisitions have provided them with the ability to customize software and services around core care systems.

One of them was its purchase earlier this year of KPI Ninja, whose event-driven data processing capabilities complement Health Catalyst’s own platform, enabling customers to build new services and operational tools around their core care systems.

LifePoint, meanwhile, has been making acquisitions of its own, such as its June 2021 addition of specialty hospital company Kindred Healthcare, with an eye toward a delivery network that taps into Kindred’s specialty hospital and rehabilitative expertise and its behavioral health platform.

ON THE RECORD“The Health Catalyst DOS platform, along with our technology product suites and applications, and improvement expertise, will best position LifePoint Health to achieve, sustain and scale the highest standards of care across its network,” said Health Catalyst CEO Dan Burton in a statement this week.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.Email: afox@himss.orgHealthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.


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Fifteen Months for Domestic Worker Who Stole Jewellery




On Thursday, a Palma court sentenced a domestic worker to fifteen months for the theft of jewellery from her employer, a woman in her eighties.

Between 2015 and the end of 2020, the 45-year-old Chilean worked two days a week at the woman’s home in Sa Indioteria, Palma. Over that period, she stole various items of jewellery. The woman only realised this at the end of 2020, which was when she reported the matter to the National Police.

The police established that these items, which included watches, rings and bracelets, were sold in gold-buying establishments in Palma. The woman later verified that these were hers. As well as the jewellery, a hearing aid was stolen.

In January 2021, the domestic worker was arrested. Described as being in an “irregular situation” in Spain, her lawyer obtained agreement for the sentence to be suspended so long as a sum of 10,700 euros is paid over three years, at a rate of 297 euros per month, and she does not commit another crime during this period.


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