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Southwest Telehealth Resource Center Blog

Telehealth has become a vital tool to deliver timely and effective medical care, particularly in rural areas.  One hospital in Arizona, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC), is using telehealth to improve patient satisfaction and treat conditions that would otherwise need the services of a “big-city” hospital.

Telemedicine reimbursement is always a hot topic but even hotter with the new CMS regulations.  On February 7, 2019, Jordana Bernard the Director for Policy and Public Affairs at InTouch Health, was the guest presenter for the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center and the Arizona Telemedicine Program webinar series.  The webinar reached over 500 individuals across the US and a few international folks joined in too! Jordana provided a concise and informative overview of all the latest changes in telehealth reimbursement. It was recorded and archived on our website along with her slide deck and a couple of useful handouts (e.g., the list of 98 CPTs that are reimbursed), so if you missed it think about taking the time to view it. These, along with all our previous webinars, can be found at https://telemedicine.arizona.edu/webinars/previous .

Practically everywhere you turn today, AI, or artificial intelligence, (aka deep learning and machine learning) pops up as the must have, coolest thing since robots and thinking machines were first introduced in popular literature and films. After all, who doesn’t want a car that can sense when it’s safe to change lanes, stop before hitting the deer in the road and even drive itself?

There is little doubt that AI already has and will continue to revolutionize the world and thereby healthcare. For example, the past five years at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting -- the world’s largest radiology meeting, attracting over 50,000 people to Chicago -- have seen an explosion in the number of vendors promoting AI in their products, and the number of scientific talks and courses on the topic. The 2018 meeting in November was no exception – I swear, every single vendor must have had “AI” advertised somewhere on their booth. Throughout the meeting sessions, AI, deep learning and machine learning topics permeated presentations.

Medicare providers will now be paid for “virtual check-ins” with patients.

The 115th Congress (2017-2018) took big steps forward for telehealth.

First, members introduced 119 bills that included the term “telehealth” or “telemedicine,” a 42% increase over telehealth legislation introduced in the 114th Congress.

Second, the bipartisan Congressional Telehealth Caucus formed to “discuss how best to improve remote care to Americans who need it most.” Yes, you read that right: Bipartisan! There is enormous bipartisan support for telehealth in Congress.

2018 had many successes in the telehealth arena – check out some of our past blogs for highlights! There is, however, still much to be accomplished, so looking forward we asked our colleagues around the country what they are looking forward to in 2019. We hope you find some inspiration, new directions and novel ideas in these thoughts to help guide your 2019 adventures in telehealth!

Elizabeth A Krupinski, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Southwest Telehealth Resource Center
The SWTRC is looking forward to watching trends in artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can not only impact Telehealth and healthcare in general, but how AI companies and investigators will effectively and efficiently integrate AI into the clinical information environment and workflow. Being embedded in an academic environment also provides us with some unique opportunities to partner on grants with others developing and expanding their Telehealth footprint, and the SWTRC looks forward to be a vital part of these grants and helping provide training and related Telehealth expertise.

Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, FCAP, FATA
Co-Director, Southwest Telehealth Resource Center
I'm looking forward to leveraging the vast potential that emerging 5G mobile cellular phone technologies promise to deliver to the health care industry.  5G delivers gigabit speeds, reduced latency, higher system capacity, and the massive device connectivity needed for optimizing personalized patient care. 5G networks will enable new classes of digital technologies aimed at improving treatment outcomes. Telehealth's "e-classrooms–of-the future" will promote greater patient participation in their personal healthcare teams while addressing, at the same time, the need for significant improvements in US population health literacy across the entire country.

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