Although telemedicine has made many technological advancements in the past decade, it still faces several legal and financial barriers to widespread use and acceptance.  Chief among these are poor reimbursement policies; according to the American Telemedicine Association, 29 states earned an “F” for coverage and reimbursement standards.  States have attempted to rectify some of these payment barriers with state telehealth parity acts, which require that telehealth visits be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits.  On July 7th, Deleware became the 29th State to enact telehealth parity laws.

Congress is now considering a nation-wide telehealth parity act.  Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) has sponsored the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 in the House, along with co-sponsors Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS), Diane Black (R-TN), and Peter Welch (D-VT).  The Act  is intended to modernize the way Medicare reimburses telehealth services and to expand coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.  
Continue Reading The Proposed Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 Would Expand Medicare Reimbursement for Telehealth Services

The European Commission has finally published its summary of 211 responses to its mobile health (“mHealth”) consultation.  The summary and original responses to the consultation have been made available on the Commission’s website at https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/summary-report-public-consultation-green-paper-mobile-health

The consultation covered a broad range of important issues for mHealth, including legal frameworks, privacy and data protection, patient safety, mHealth’s role in healthcare systems, equal access, interoperability, funding and reimbursement, liability, research & innovation, international cooperation, and market access issues, particularly for web entrepreneurs.

Continue Reading Summary Report of European Commission’s mHealth Consultation Published

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairwoman Edith Ramirez’s remarks at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday signal that FTC may be paying increased attention to privacy and security issues in the mobile health industry.

The speech focused on how “the introduction of sensors and devices into currently intimate spaces – like our homes, cars, and even our bodies” results in increased data sensitivity and heightened challenges for consumer protection.  Those challenges, according to Ramirez, stem from three overarching issues: (1) ubiquitous data collection; (2) using data in ways consumers don’t expect (and the adverse consequences of such use); and (3) heightened security risks.

While FTC has been focused on consumer issues raised by the “Internet of Things” (IoT) era for quite some time, the examples cited by Ramirez suggest that e-health products are among the IoT applications of greatest salience when it comes to consumer protection.  She specifically called out smart glucose meters, heart monitors and health monitoring wearables in the speech.
Continue Reading FTC Remarks Signal Heightened Focus on Mobile Health Devices

Health care providers and other entities face a host of legal and practical challenges as they implement telehealth and telemedicine initiatives.

For example, providers of telehealth services, and the entities creating or hosting telehealth platforms, must determine which federal and state privacy and security laws apply to them.  These laws, such as the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), may impose privacy and security restrictions, as well as restrictions on the use of data for marketing.  Additional privacy and security complications may arise if providers choose to store data from telehealth encounters on the “cloud.”
Continue Reading Legal and Practical Challenges Surround Telehealth Implementation

Medicare Part B pays for certain health services furnished to rural beneficiaries via an “interactive telecommunications system”—a system that provides for real-time audio and video communication.  Among the covered services are office visits, certain behavioral health services, diabetes self-management training, and medical nutrition therapy.  The practitioner furnishing the service remotely (the “distant site”  provider) may be a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, clinical psychologist, or other provider.  In order for telehealth services to be reimbursed under Medicare, the beneficiary must receive the service from designated “originating sites,” such as a physician’s office, hospital, rural health center, or FQHC.
Continue Reading Medicare Coverage of Telehealth Services: Current Law and Changes for 2014