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Digital Health 2021 Year in Review

The continuation of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) and consumer demand for digitally delivered healthcare not only necessitated the shift from in-person to virtual care, but also continued to drive interest, adoption, investment and transactions in digital health in 2021. Digital health funding in 2021 far surpassed 2020’s totals, with no signs of slowing down in 2022, and the potential permanence of some regulatory flexibilities beyond the PHE are charting a course for continued digital health growth in 2022 and beyond.

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2022 Health Policy Outlook

The US healthcare system is entering the third year of a public health emergency due to COVID-19, and the challenges and enduring pressures of the pandemic will require US Congress and the Biden administration to consider new response strategies. But other health policy priorities also will garner attention. As we start a new year and new congressional session, McDermott+Consulting examines the health policy priorities and key initiatives likely to dominate the agenda in 2022.

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VIDEO: Telehealth Laws in Flux as Pandemic Precautions End

The uncertainty around the termination of state public health emergencies is leading to the growth of healthcare companies with physical and virtual presences. In this recent Reuters video, McDermott Partner Lisa Mazur explained how these providers are more valuable from a valuation perspective.

“And part of that is because they’re able to enroll in Medicaid and get services covered, and they’re more likely to become a participating provider with a commercial plan,” Mazur noted.

Access the video.




Broadband Internet a Hurdle as Telehealth Services Rise in Popularity

Doctors and lawmakers say reliable broadband internet is lagging for populations that could benefit the most from telehealth services. In this MetroWest Daily News article, McDermott Partner Stephen Bernstein and McDermott+Consulting Vice President Mara McDermott offer insight into the challenges—and opportunities—for virtual care as it gains popularity.

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Staying Connected: An Update on Medicare Reimbursement for Telehealth Services After the PHE

In hopes that the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will soon end, Congress and the administration are evaluating the telehealth expansions and flexibilities put in place to respond to the PHE. As a result, the future for telehealth stakeholders remains uncertain. This article outlines various changes in Medicare telehealth reimbursement policy in effect during the PHE and identifies what actions would be required to make these changes permanent.

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50-State Survey | Rules Governing Telehealth Modalities and Patient-Provider Relationships

Telehealth’s state-by-state regulatory patchwork means that healthcare providers must navigate a variety of regulations that govern which types of care can be provided by virtual means, and even what modalities can be used in different care settings. McDermott’s recent 50-state survey explores the standard and requirements that physicians and nurse practitioners must follow when prescribing non-controlled substances or ordering tests via a telemedicine encounter. Key issues addressed in the survey include:

  • In what states are asynchronous solutions permitted?
  • What are state rules governing prescriptions when a physician-patient relationship does not exist prior to the telehealth encounter?
  • What are state rules on prescribing via audio-visual encounters or audio-only encounters?
  • Under what state regulations can a questionnaire be sufficient to create a physician-patient or advance practice registered nurse-patient relationship?

Access the survey.




CMS Addresses Virtual Care Expansion in CY 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposal

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently published its annual proposed changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, which include several key telehealth and other virtual care-related proposals. The proposals address long-standing restrictions that have historically limited the use of telehealth and virtual care, including geographic and originating site restrictions, and limitations on audio-only care, as well as coverage extensions for some services added during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Read more here.




Internet Access Is a Critical Telehealth, Equity Issue

COVID-19 served as a major pivot event for the adoption of virtual healthcare solutions. As stay-at-home orders swept the country and the pandemic forced physical isolation, telehealth tools were rapidly rolled out to safely provide necessary services. The reality on the ground forced overnight adoption of virtual care services that otherwise likely would have plodded along for decades.

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American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Key Healthcare Provisions

On March 10, 2021, US Congress finalized and passed the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA), the latest COVID-19 relief package that largely tracks President Joe Biden’s initial $1.9 trillion proposal. The ARPA extends unemployment insurance benefits and provides direct $1,400 stimulus payments to qualifying Americans, but it also makes several important health policy-related changes. These include providing funding for vaccine distribution and testing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, making policy adjustments to the Medicaid program, facilitating health insurance coverage and providing more money for healthcare providers. The final bill also makes two narrowly focused technical Medicare payment changes.

This summary highlights notable health policy provisions of the final bill.

Access the summary.

For more information, please contact Meg Gilley, Mara McDermott, Kristen O’Brien, Katie Waldo, Rodney Whitlock or Eric Zimmerman.




Transformative Healthcare Collaboration Opportunities Emerge from COVID-19 Pandemic

The seismic, virtually overnight transformation of healthcare delivery as a result of the pandemic has flung open doors to innovation, as a diverse cross-section of digital health and life sciences stakeholders mobilize crisis resources; adjust operations for enhanced screening, sanitization and social distancing measures; harness telehealth capabilities to deliver healthcare remotely; and identify opportunities for smarter, better healthcare going forward.

Writing for The US-Israel Legal Review, partners from McDermott’s Health practice highlight the challenges and opportunities that digital health and life sciences operators and investors should consider as the industry charts a course through the post-pandemic changed healthcare landscape.

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