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April 2020

Telehealth seizes its moment on the stage by GSA Business Report

By News

Before March 15, AnMed Health hosted few telehealth channels aside from MyChart e-visits.

By March 23, the Anderson health care system had served more than 8,000 patients through remote services including video visits with doctors and telephone check-ups for patients without video-conferencing capability.

According to Kim Burden, AnMed’s Physician Network director, the hospital system built a telehealth matrix across in its multi-countywide web of physician practices in three days.

“We’re providing a lot of care through telemedicine services today and we weren’t actually doing any of those things with the exception of e-visits a month ago,” she said.

The program, developed in-house, runs off FaceTime, Google Duo and Epic to connect to patients and record symptoms as patients fear contact with COVID-19.

“We think the door has opened with these services,” Burden said. “Previously, these were only available in rural areas as far as reimbursement was concerned.”

AnMed Health has joined Prisma Health, the Medical University of South Carolina’s Virtual Urgent Care, and others in the rapid adoption of telehealth care as the first pandemic wave crashed on South Carolina. Health care professionals believe it’s here to stay.

Prisma Health is now receiving hundreds of telehealth calls each day across the Upstate and Midlands, while the number had been in the teens prior to the outbreak.

“You have to be close enough to a phone to access a Prisma Health provider. Through our virtual visit program, anyone who has an Android or IOS smartphone could access one of our providers,” said Dr. Matt Bitner, chairman of the Prisma Health Department of Emergency Medicine.

The health care provider had previously outsourced some telehealth services to national providers but has since brought the system back to South Carolina with in-house operators.

“Telehealth is really important, because the first step is talk to your physician via telehealth before you go to the emergency room,” said Thornton Kirby, president of the S.C. Hospital Association. “That message got out really effectively early on, and emergency rooms are down to about 40% of normal [visits].”

Despite increased production of personal protective equipment, Kirby said a shortage persists across the state but the scarcity is mitigated by telehealth capabilities.

Still, with telehealth technology just now taking center stage as a result of the pandemic, Thornton says a legacy payment system and patchy rural broadband may slow widespread take-off of virtual health care for the time being. He said many homes in rural regions lack access the internet bandwidth necessary for telehealth consults, but bipartisan efforts on the state and federal level have begun to make better bandwidth widely accessible.

“We are making slow and steady progress,” he said. “I think this COVID pandemic is going to, in retrospect, be a spark that really kicks it into a higher gear.”

Jon-Michial Carter, co-founder and CEO of Chartspan, noted enrollment for his company’s telehealth services have spiked by 30% in the past month in the largest month-over-month increase he has ever seen. Over half of his customers — expansive healthcare networks and private clinics alike — have abbreviated their hours or suspended their practice. The Greenville-based company serves more than 100 health care systems and practices across the country, including some Upstate providers.

“We work with their elderly patients making sure that their care needs are being followed, so we become the first line of defense for those patients that are managing healthcare concerns, especially COVID-19 concerns,” Carter said. Chartspan’s clinicians screen patients’ symptoms, which are analyzed using algorithm-based protocols, and then prompt them to schedule an appointment with their doctor, visit the emergency room or stay home.

Last month, Chartspan fielded 30,000 patient calls with 76% involving COVID-19 symptoms. Out of these COVID-19 screenings, 98.1% of all cases did not require a follow-up appointment. According to Carter, such services help strained health care providers focus on patients in critical need and shields vulnerable populations from increased infection.

He has met some resistance from skeptical doctors, but Carter argues that telehealth expansion during the epidemic is only the beginning.

“The horses have left the barn and they are never returning,” he said. “You are about to see a dramatic and sustained increase in telehealth, and you will see a dramatic change in the way health care happens in this country because of telehealth.” Carter said he expects one-quarter of all health care encounters to transition to remote health platforms.

Dr. Graham Adams, CEO of the S.C. Office of Rural Health, also sees the epidemic as a tipping point for widespread use of telehealth among smaller providers as well as existing pioneers. The recent passing of the CARES act grants reimbursement for some telehealth activity and has stimulated additional growth, even if the terms of billing regulation are not yet clear.

“Those capabilities have been in place for a long time,” Adams said, noting that regulations usually thwarting telehealth expansion have been suspended during the pandemic. “If there is a silver lining to this, it might, at least in our state, serve to accelerate a lot of the telehealth technologies at a greater rate than it would’ve been.”

But not all offices are created equal in terms of underlying IT security or broadband access.

Maps developed by Palmetto Care Connections, SCHA and S.C. Office of Rural Health portray miles of Upstate households lacking access to broadband. Handfuls of orange blotches portraying 25 to 199 unserved households per square mile arise in all Upstate counties, while southern and northwestern areas of Greenville county operate below 10 megabits per second.

Oconee, Greenwood, Laurens and Abbeville counties are spotted with a few red patches representing more than 200 unserved households per square mile.

“It’s certainly our rural communities that struggle with that more. Again, the lack of reliable, affordable internet is a problem, not just with the healthcare environment, but also in ensuring that folks can work remotely from home, that school children can have the ability to do school work from home — all those things that when you live in Greenville, Columbia or Charleston, you kind of take for granted,” Adams said.

This article first appeared in the April 20 print edition of the GSA Business Report.

Reach Molly Hulsey at 864-720-1223.

Carr Details FCC’s Efforts to Expand Telehealth, mHealth Networks

By News


-mHealth Intelligence

– Some $200 million is available right now to help healthcare providers launch or expand telehealth programs during the Coronavirus pandemic, and another $100 million is set aside to expand connected health programs to rural areas over the next three years.

All courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission, whose goal is to improve the lines of communication – literally – upon which these platforms operate.

(For more coronavirus updates, visit our resource page, updated twice daily by Xtelligent Healthcare Media.)

“We’ve been active in supporting internet connectivity in telehealth for really over a decade,” says Brendan Carr, one of the FCC’s five commissioners. “What we’ve primarily done is support through funding high-speed connections to brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities, and that type of work has delivered some really amazing results.”

During an episode of Xtelligent Healthcare Media’s Healthcare Strategies podcast series recorded earlier this week, Carr explained how telehealth programs across the country are moving toward what he calls “connected care,” which changes the dynamic from patients seeking care at a hospital to patients accessing care at their convenience.

Click Here to Read rest of this article…

FCC Unveils More Telehealth Grants, New 5G Fund for Rural America

By News


By Eric Wicklund on

The Federal Communications Commission has announced a third group of healthcare providers to receive funding from the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

In the past week, the FCC has awarded $9.5 million from the $200 million program to 17 providers in 10 states for new and existing connected health platforms that aim to treat infected patients, secure the safety of doctors and nurses and improve care management and coordination for high-risk populations and others who need non-Coronavirus care.

(For more coronavirus updates, visit our resource page, updated twice daily by Xtelligent Healthcare Media.)

The latest round of grant recipients is as follows:

  • The NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City is getting $772,687 to improve telehealth programs to monitor high-risk, elderly and vulnerable patients with complex care and chronic disease concerns at home;
  • Christiana Care Health Services in Newark, DE, is getting $714,322 to expand its telehealth and remote patient monitoring platforms to low-income, vulnerable patients in New Castle County and elsewhere;
  • Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, MD, has been awarded $664,606 to establish video-based virtual care services to diagnose and treat infected patients in central Maryland and support RPM programs for high-risk and non-COVID-19 patients who are being discharged from the hospital back to their homes;
  • White Plains Hospital Medical Center in White Plains, NY, is getting $165,832 to establish a telehealth program for high-risk patients with pre-existing pulmonary conditions and use telemedicine technology to improve care for the hospital’s patient population while minimizing the risk of exposure for care providers and those who aren’t infected;
  • Garfield Health Center in Monterey Park, Cam has been awarded $130,217 to expand telehealth services to treat vulnerable low-income patients in the San Gabriel Valley who have underlying and/or chronic health conditions;
  • The HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region 2, doing business as the Open Health Care Clinic in Baton Rouge, LA, is getting $116,049 to expand its telehealth and RPM services to treat vulnerable low-income patients.

In a separate announcement, the FCC has announced plans to distribute as much as $9 billion through the Universal Service Fund to establish 5G wireless broadband connectivity in rural parts of the country, giving healthcare providers and consumers a better foundation for telehealth and mHealth.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks public comment on two directions for what will be called the 5G Fund for Rural America. One would create a competitive reverse auction in 2021 “by defining eligible areas based on current data sources that identify areas as particularly rural and thus in the greatest need of universal service support and prioritize funding to areas that have historically lacked 4G LTE or even 3G service.” The second option would delay that auction until at least 2023 and give the agency time to collect mobile broadband coverage data through the new Digital Opportunity Data Collection.

Finally, the FCC has also adopted rules opening up the 1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use, giving healthcare providers and others more room to expand Wi-Fi networks and bolster the Internet of Things to support mHealth devices and uses.


BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Coronavirus FAQ

By News

More than 250,000 South Carolinians have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic started in March. Those without jobs may have also lost their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is here to help anyone affected by this crisis. Here’s a look at options and what individuals can do to get covered:

“The biggest thing to know right now is that you have choices. We can help through the process and pick the best type of coverage for you. We are here for you.” — Denise Jefferson, a marketing director with BlueCross

PCC Names Program Assistant

By Latest News, News

Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting announces that Ramona Midkiff has joined PCC as program assistant.

In her role, Midkiff provides administrative support to the CEO and department directors, implements financial processes, maintains financial records, and assists with marketing and education activities including website, social media, creative design, presentations and special events.

“Ramona joined PCC in March and hit the ground running,” said Schwarting. “We were finalizing details for our 8th Annual Telehealth Summit of South Carolina, which we subsequently rescheduled due to COVID-19. Since she joined PCC, Ramona has proven to be a dedicated, hardworking team member. She brings exceptional skills in organization, creativity and design, and is well-versed in numerous computer applications. She is a self-starter, very intuitive, and is definitely an asset to PCC.”

Prior to joining PCC, Midkiff was an account executive and graphic artist for Image Group Ink in Orangeburg, S.C. Her previous career experience includes: co-owner of Treasured Memories, a gift and specialty shop in Orangeburg, 2012 – 2017; online sales manager/graphic designer for The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg 2007 – 2012; sales/webmaster for North Furniture in North, S.C., 2005-2007; and manager/graphic designer for Husqvarna in Orangeburg,1991-2005.

Midkiff holds an Associate Degree in engineering graphics from Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. She attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia where she studied graphic design, and she has completed additional classes at OCtech in web design and business.

A resident of North since 1975, Midkiff graduated from North High School. She and her husband Ken, have two grown sons, Christopher (wife Jenny, and daughter Addie), and Dustin (fiancé Lindsay).

Established in 2010, PCC is a non-profit organization that provides technology, broadband, and telehealth support services to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in S.C. PCC leads the S.C. health care broadband consortium which facilitates broadband connections for health care providers throughout the state. PCC co-chairs the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, along with the Medical University of South Carolina, partnering with health care organizations and providers to improve health care access and delivery for all South Carolinians.


By News

Information provided by Center for Connected Health Policy

Telehealth policy changes occurring within the COVID-19 environment have been rapidly developing on almost a daily basis.  CCHP is committed to keeping you updated on these important changes both federally and on the state level.  Watch our latest COVID-19 policy update videos.


Timestamp: March 31, 2020 – 12 pm PT

As things rapidly develop regarding what we know about COVID-19, policies around telehealth have also been developing alongside of it.  Below is a summary of what is covered by various public and private payers with the information that has been released. Keep in mind that events are evolving and to consider this a living document that could change frequently as new information and new policies become available/are enacted.  CCHP will continue to make updates when they become available.

Below is information regarding current policies and the changes made due to passage of HR 6074 and HR 748 as well as recently released CMS guidances.  Note that HR 748 removed significant sections that HR 6074 had put into law.

Download the information below in the form of an easy to read fact sheet here!

Click here to see informative tables and options for additional information 

Alert: FCC Waives Additional Universal Service Rules for Rural Health Care Providers

By News

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has issued a second order waiving additional universal service rules to assist entities that participate in its Rural Health Care Program. The new order extends the filing deadline for the 2020 funding year, liberalizes the competitive bidding requirements for “evergreen” contracts and extends several procedural deadlines. It follows an earlier order waiving the “gift rule” to allow service providers to offer free or reduced-price services to recipients of Rural Health Care Program funding.

  • Extension of application window: The order extends the window for health care providers to apply for the 2020 funding year. The new deadline is June 30; the original deadline was April 30. The new deadline applies to both the Telecom Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.
  • Evergreen contracts: The rules for the Rural Health Care Program allow funding recipients to avoid rebidding their services every year if they enter into contracts that specify the service being provided, what the services will cost, where the services will be provided, and the term of the agreements. Once the specified term ends, the funding recipient must rebid the contract. The order allows Rural Health Care Program recipients to extend any contracts that expire in funding year 2019 to funding year 2020 by waiving two rules – one that prevents an extension of contracts past their terms and another that limits the total length of contracts to five years. This is a one-time waiver, and it applies only to contracts that expire during funding year 2019, which runs from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
  • Procedural deadlines: The order extends a series of procedural deadlines for the Rural Health Care Program:
    • Responses to information requests: The normal deadline for applicants to respond to information requests from the Universal Service Administrative Company is 14 days; the order extends that deadline to 28 days. The waiver will apply to any information requests issued on or before September 30.
    • Service delivery deadline: Normally, all services must be delivered by the end of the funding year to be eligible for support under the Rural Health Care Program. The order waives this deadline for funding year 2019 for non-recurring services (that is, services purchased on a one-time basis), and will allow reimbursement for such services if they are delivered by June 30, 2021.
    • Invoice filing deadline: The rules for the Healthcare Connect Fund generally require funding recipients to provide invoices for reimbursement within six months of the end of the funding commitment. The order extends that period for 180 days for funding year 2019, so that funding recipients will have just slightly less than one year to provide invoices.
    • Appeals and requests for waiver: The FCC’s rules require any party that requests review or a waiver of a Universal Service Administrative Company decision to submit the appeal or waiver within 60 days. The order extends that period to 120 days. The extension applies to all deadlines for requests for waiver or review from March 11 to September 30.