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.
Although digital health solutions have long been a key area of strategic growth for the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 crisis accelerated what it means to deliver safe and effective digitally-based care. As the United States shifts focus from short-term crisis response to longer-term solutions, what does a digitally-driven healthcare industry look like, and how can healthcare entities maintain the highest standards of care and meet patient expectations while constructively disrupting out-of-date practice patterns? During a recent virtual conversation, McDermott Partners Michael W. Ryan and Jennifer S. Geetter addressed these questions and more.
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?
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.
New digital health regulations arose at the federal and state level in 2018, bolstering the existing legal framework to further support and encourage digital health adoption in the context of care coordination and the move to value-based payment. McDermott’s 2018 Digital Health Year in Review: Focus on Care Coordination and Reimbursement report – the second in a four-part series – highlighted these developments within the digital health landscape. These efforts brought changes to coverage of telehealth and other virtual care services, as well as information gathering for regulatory reform, and can help bridge the gap between research, funding and implementation as regulations build a framework within which companies can deploy their products, receive reimbursement and demonstrate value to patients. Here we outline digital health developments from the second half of 2018 and how they can help drive digital health forward in 2019. For a closer look at key care coordination and reimbursement developments that shaped digital health in 2018, along with planning considerations and predictions for the digital health frontier in the year ahead, download our full report.
To view the first report in the series, 2018 Digital Health Year in Review: Focus on Data, click here.