5 things for CMIOs to know: Pandemic opens new remote monitoring, telehealth frontier 

Jackie Drees -

Telehealth and remote-monitoring platforms have emerged as a "clear example of untapped innovation" during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CMS administrator Seema Verma

With the help of regulation waivers, virtual care and remote technologies have helped hospitals and health systems get telehealth programs up and running in days to enhance clinical care during the pandemic.

But will widespread access to the technology be here to stay once the pandemic ends? 

Here are five updates for chief medical information officers: 

1. CMS telehealth visits increased from 100,000 per week to 300,000 per week as of March 28, Ms. Verma said this week. The agency expects the number to grow, and while CMS has not made any permanent updates for telehealth policies after the pandemic, Ms. Verma said: "I think the genie's out of the bottle on this one. I think it's fair to say that the advent of telehealth has been just completely accelerated, that it’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there's absolutely no going back."

2. The Federal Communications Commission has approved three waves of COVID-19 telehealth program applications, funneling $9.5 million to healthcare providers in 10 states. Hospitals that have received the most funding for their projects include New Orleans-based Ochsner Clinic Foundation, awarded $1 million for telehealth services and devices for high-risk patients and populations and NYU Langone Health in New York City, which received $988,772 to add telehealth services in operating rooms and conference rooms. 

3. Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group, is reportedly negotiating to purchase virtual therapy provider AbleTo for $470 million. The New York-based telehealth company focuses on mental health services and has reported an increase in users during the pandemic. Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic also is set to become an investor in Current Health, a remote patient management platform that can identify and assess treatment for COVID-19 patients. More  than 40 hospital systems globally use Current Health's platform. 

4. Epic founder and CEO Judy Faulkner told Business Insider that hospitals will continue to push patient remote-monitoring and telehealth programs after the pandemic. Epic calculated that there have been 50 to 100 times more video visits being done by clients compared to months before the pandemic. Also tapping into virtual abilities, Cerner completed its first virtual EHR go-live at Macon Community Hospital in Lafayette, Tenn, and CVS began rolling out telehealth services in 33 states and Washington, D.C., through its retail MinuteClinics. 

5. Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. are tapping virtual and remote technologies to enhance clinical care. Columbus-based Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center this month began using pacemaker technology that allows a technician to program the device during surgery without being physically present in the operating room. Mayo Clinic now is using telemedicine technology so that 60 of its physicians can virtually accompany clinicians on COVID-19 rounds at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in New York City. Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston is testing a robot that walks on four "legs" and features a screen that allows for video visits between clinicians and patients with less serious COVID-19 cases. 

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