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McDermott Partners Recognized As Digital Health Power Players

Washington (August 11, 2021) – McDermott Will & Emery partners Jennifer Geetter and Vernessa Pollard have been recognized within an Insider profile on the “9 behind-the-scenes players who can make or break your digital-health startup.” The pair discussed advising young companies on the regulatory hurdles they have to clear before tackling the healthcare market.

As part of the Firm’s industry-leading health practice, Jennifer advises digital health companies on the development, delivery and implementation of innovative healthcare solutions. Vernessa leads medical device and technology companies through US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations to bring products to market.

Vernessa explored with Insider how more tech companies are spreading into healthcare. These companies need assistance discussing the FDA’s newest regulations, including machine learning oversights or health-data privacy rules. If businesses are not knowledgeable about their regulatory requirements, it can make or break their investments.

“We have a number of what we’d consider to be nontraditionally FDA regulated entities, such as the large tech companies and even hospitals and healthcare providers, that are entering this space because they’re developing new tools or technology that may trigger FDA requirements,” Vernessa noted.

Jennifer explained that it’s not always clear if decade old FDA laws apply, so she advises her clients to prioritize building trust with patients through an emphasis of privacy and cybersecurity protection.

“There’s something about the intimacy of the standard doctor-patient relationship when you’re sitting across the room from your doctor that breeds trust,” Jennifer said. “When you’re in a digital healthcare system with distance, you don’t necessarily have that.”

McDermott Will & Emery is the nation’s leading health law firm. The Health Industry Advisory group is the only health practice to receive top national rankings from U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms,” Chambers USA, The Legal 500 US and Law360. The practice was also recognized by Chambers as “Health Team of the Year” in 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019. McDermott has also held the top spot in PitchBook’s League Tables as the most active firm for healthcare private equity since 2017.




Access To Digital Health Applications And Digital Care Applications In Germany

On 20 January 2021, the German Federal Cabinet approved the draft law on the digital modernization of healthcare and nursing care. The draft has been criticized for not taking into account lessons learned from the implementation of the 2019 digital health applications law.

The legally enforceable right of patients insured in the Germany statutory healthcare system (SHI) to be able to access digital health applications (DiGAs) was included in the German SHI code (SGB V) at the end of 2019.

DiGAs are low-risk medical devices (risk class I and IIa) that are primarily based on digital technologies and support the detection, monitoring, treatment, or alleviation of diseases, injuries, or disabilities. Under the SGB V, DiGAs have to be approved by the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) and included in the DiGA List before doctors can prescribe them to their patients on an individual basis and at the SHI’s expense. Among the DiGAs listed by BfArM since the first listing in October 2020, are those that support patients with light depression, insomnia, obesity, or tinnitus.

Read more in our latest edition of International News.




Telehealth and Prescribing: What’s Permissible in Your State?

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.

Our new interactive map explores the standards and requirements that physicians and nurse practitioners must follow when prescribing non-controlled substances or ordering tests via a telemedicine encounter in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 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?

Click here to access the map and download the full report. 




Three Digital Health Trends Affecting Investors in 2021

Private equity deal volume hit a low in the first half of 2020 as the pandemic slowed the US and global economies. But toward the end of the year, deals began picking back up, particularly in the digital health space.

COVID-19 forced healthcare providers to shift from in-person to virtual care, and technology was the vehicle to make that switch possible. Investors noticed, and more deals focused on companies specializing in telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other technology platforms that facilitate communication among specialists.

Expect this trend to continue in 2021, and keep these three factors in mind when evaluating the digital health landscape.

Easing of Laws and Regulations Surrounding Telehealth and Digital Health

Both telehealth and digital health are highly regulated, as every state has laws and regulations that govern how care is provided virtually and how those services are billed. In response to the pandemic, we’ve seen flexibility with these laws and regulations, and the Biden administration has signaled that it might make some flexibilities permanent.

Investment opportunities will likely increase as a result of the Biden administration’s willingness to lower some of the longstanding barriers to coverage and payment for virtual services, including telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other related services. That’s a positive sign for firms looking at healthcare through the lens of a technology solution.

Reallocation of Resources Due to Vaccine Rollout

Since the onset of the pandemic, labs have conducted a huge volume of testing and have had to ramp up personnel and other resources. Plus, the vast majority of COVID-19 tests must be ordered by a physician or nurse, further straining available resources.

While testing will likely continue in some capacity for a long time, the number of tests will presumably decline steadily as more people are vaccinated. That means capacity will open up, both for healthcare providers who were ordering the tests and for lab companies that were performing them. As a result, firms should begin asking themselves:

  • Where are there opportunities to shift focus and resources previously devoted to testing?
  • What other conditions lend themselves to at-home testing?
  • Where can companies shift efforts that were previously focused on reviewing orders?

Addressing Mental Health and the Other Epidemic

COVID-19 obviously emerged as the foremost health emergency of the past year. But it’s important to remember that the United States is still in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic.

On top of that, COVID-19 has been hard on many people’s mental health. In response, many employers have made mental health a higher priority, and that trend is likely to continue, even as employees return to the workplace. In 2021, investors are likely to continue to emphasize digital health tools and service offerings that are focused on mindfulness and behavior health.

To learn more from Lisa and other thought leaders about the healthcare investing landscape heading into 2021, you can view a recording of The Deal’s webinar here.




National Telehealth Takedown Highlights Opportunity for Providers to Enhance Compliance Efforts

The US Department of Justice and the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General recently announced a significant healthcare fraud takedown involving $4.5 billion in allegedly false and fraudulent claims involving telehealth. The allegations involved telehealth executives paying healthcare providers to order unnecessary items and services, as well as payments from durable medical equipment companies, laboratories and pharmacies for those orders. While the alleged conduct is not representative of the legitimate and crucial telehealth services offered by the vast majority of healthcare providers, the government’s continued focus on telehealth arrangements, combined with the ongoing expansion of coverage for telehealth services, provides an important opportunity for healthcare providers to evaluate their telehealth service offerings and arrangements and to further enhance their related compliance activities.

In Depth

On September 30, 2020, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a press release describing the largest national healthcare fraud and opioid enforcement action in the DOJ’s history (the Takedown). The Takedown involved coordination with the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) and other federal and state law enforcement agencies, and resulted in cases against more than 345 defendants in 51 judicial districts. The government charged the defendants with participating in healthcare fraud schemes involving more than $6 billion in alleged losses to federal health care programs, with the vast majority of alleged losses ($4.5 billion) stemming from arrangements involving alleged “telefraud.”

According to the DOJ press release, a recently announced National Rapid Response Strike Force led the initiative focused on telehealth. The National Rapid Response Strike Force is part of the Health Care Fraud Unit of DOJ’s Criminal Division Fraud section, and its mission is to “investigate and prosecute fraud cases involving major health care providers that operate in multiple jurisdictions, including major regional health care providers operating in the Criminal-Division-led Health Care Fraud Strike Forces throughout the United States.”

Background

In recent years, the government has increasingly focused on alleged healthcare fraud schemes involving telehealth services. In connection with the Takedown, OIG issued a fact sheet and graphic highlighting the increase in “telefraud” arrangements leveraging “aggressive marketing and so-called telehealth services.” The individuals charged in the Takedown included telehealth company executives, medical providers, marketers and business owners who allegedly used telemarketing calls, direct mail, and television and internet advertisements to collect information from unsuspecting patients.

Many of the cases involved telehealth executives who allegedly paid healthcare providers to order unnecessary durable medical equipment (DME), genetic and other diagnostic testing, and medications, either without any patient interaction or with only a brief phone call. The government alleged that the arrangements involved kickbacks to telehealth executives after the DME company, laboratory or pharmacy billed Medicare or Medicaid for items and services that the government asserts were often not provided to beneficiaries or were “worthless to patients . . . and delayed their chance to seek appropriate treatment for medical complaints.”

DOJ provided a [...]

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After the Curve Podcast: Focus on Digital Health

COVID-19 has demanded a rapid shift in the world of telehealth and digital health, resulting in a global embracing of a telehealth and digital health system that is not yet fully developed. On this episode of the McDermott Health podcast, our digital health partners have joined to discuss the future of telehealth and use of digital tools to speed up care delivery and to improve outcomes in the wake of COVID-19, as well as the vital role of data readiness in reshaping the healthcare system. McDermott’s Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Tullio is joined by partners Stephen Bernstein and Lisa Mazur to examine current trends and potential changes to both telehealth as well as the broader digital health landscape, including:

  • The most impactful regulatory telehealth changes that have resulted from COVID-19
  • A look beyond telehealth to a paradigm shift in the broader digital health landscape
  • The impact that a more refined data exchange pathway could have on treatment during the next wave of COVID-19 or future pandemics
  • Meaningful collaborations that are currently happening in the digital health space
  • A look at innovations that are emerging from the demands of post-COVID-19 healthcare
  • Legal and regulatory compliance steps that still need to be taken to allow these telehealth programs to continue in the future

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Digital Health at Scale: The Payor Perspective

The COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed efforts by health insurers to expand reimbursement for telehealth services and digital health tools, and develop and invest in their own digital health technology. Health insurers, who increasingly play a hybrid role of payor, innovator and provider, have a vested interest in helping consumers manage chronic diseases and engage in preventive care from home, both during the public health emergency and after.

Joined by leaders from Humana, Oscar, and Medorion, we discussed the role of health insurers in the evolving digital health market, reimbursement pathways for digital tools and innovative partnerships between technology companies and health insurers. Click here to listen to the webinar recording, and read on for highlights from the program.

PROGRAM INSIGHTS

  • COVID-19 has accelerated the integration of digital health into the traditional health insurance framework. Pre-COVID-19, health insurers were using digital health tools to help their members find providers, access care and manage health conditions. COVID-19 has hastened health plans’ efforts toward vertical integration of digital health technology. Health insurers at the forefront of this effort are focused on creating a consumer-centric, digitally enabled and fully integrated healthcare ecosystem to enhance the member experience, bend the cost curve and carve out an essential (and expanded) role for themselves in the future of healthcare. As consumer behavior continues to change as a result of COVID-19, health insurers will have to be responsive to the way their members are getting care and interacting with the healthcare system.
  • Health insurers are uniquely situated to leverage digital health technologies. Data-driven technology is only as good as the data behind it. Due to the critical role health insurers play in paying for healthcare services, they have insight into member patterns of care and utilization that can be used to target interventions, influence member decision-making and improve health. Investments in digital tools and analytics, as well as strategic partnerships with technology companies, will allow for increased leverage of this valuable data, improved integration of member health information and enhanced member engagement.
  • Interoperability with existing health IT systems is crucial to break down barriers to digital health implementation. Healthcare has been grappling with data interoperability challenges for decades. To scale and make the information from digital tools actionable as part of a larger care plan, digital health platforms must also be interoperable with existing health IT systems. Interoperability will also allow insurers to gather a more complete picture of a member’s longitudinal health data and enable them to better support member health.
  • Health insurers and their legal teams will need to remain nimble amidst the rapidly changing regulatory environment. Keeping up with changing regulations during the COVID-19 public health emergency while planning to scale up in terms of technology implementations is a delicate balance. Though federal, state and local agencies appreciate that digital health tools and telemedicine have much potential in terms of patient care, health insurance companies remain vigilant of privacy and security risks and continue to be constrained in their [...]

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Remote Care Providers Await Final New Jersey Registration and Reporting Regulations

In 2017, the New Jersey legislature passed the New Jersey Telehealth and Telemedicine Act (codified at N.J.S.A. 45:1-61 et seq.), which established registration and reporting requirements for “telemedicine and telehealth organizations.” After a multi-year wait for details regarding the registration process, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH) published a proposed rule in April 2020 that brought providers of telehealth services in New Jersey one step closer to the implementation and enforcement of the registration requirements. A final rule is expected by April 2021.

New Jersey providers are also expecting the publication of a proposed rule detailing the reporting requirements for registered organizations. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency has led many states to implement waivers and other measures to allow for the expansion of remote healthcare services within their states, telehealth and telemedicine organizations operating in New Jersey should prepare to comply with additional requirements and the outlay of annual registration fees if the state finalizes the registration requirements as proposed.

Background: The 2017 Telemedicine and Telehealth Act

For purposes of the Act, a “telemedicine or telehealth organization” is defined as a corporate entity “that is organized for the primary purpose of administering services in furtherance of telemedicine or telehealth.” The Act differentiates telemedicine from telehealth: “telehealth” is the use of information and communications technologies (including telephones, remote patient monitoring devices or other electronic means) to support clinical healthcare, provider consultation, patient and professional health-related education, public health, health administration and other services, whereas “telemedicine” is the delivery of healthcare services using electronic or technological means (not including the use, in isolation, of audio-only telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, phone text or facsimile transmission) to “bridge the gap” between a healthcare provider located at a distant site and a patient located at an originating site.

In addition to establishing requirements for providers’ use of telemedicine and telehealth, the Act requires telemedicine or telehealth organizations to register with the NJ DOH annually, and to submit annual reports to the NJ DOH that include data elements established by the NJ DOH commissioner and, at a minimum, the following de-identified encounter data:

  • The total number of telemedicine and telehealth encounters conducted
  • The type of technology utilized to provide services using telemedicine or telehealth
  • The category of medical condition for which services were sought
  • The geographic region of the patient and the provider
  • The patient’s age and sex
  • Any prescriptions issued.

The Act did not establish any enforcement mechanism for the registration and reporting requirements, and because the NJ DOH has not yet implemented criteria for registering or reporting, New Jersey providers of remote health services have generally operated without regard to these statutory requirements.

Implementation of the Registration Requirement

The April 2020 proposed rule would implement the registration requirement for telemedicine or telehealth organizations and establish enforcement mechanisms available to the NJ DOH against any telemedicine or telehealth organization that fails to comply.

The proposed rule would require telemedicine and telehealth organizations to register with the NJ DOH [...]

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Preparing Your Data for a Post-COVID-19 World

The US healthcare system’s data infrastructure needs an overhaul to prepare for future health crises, streamline patient care, improve data sharing and accessibility among patients, providers and government entities, and move toward the delivery of coordinated care. With insights from leaders from Arcadia, Validic and McDermott, we recently discussed key analyses and updates on the interoperability and application programming interfaces (API) criteria from the 21st Century Cures Act, stakeholder benefits of healthcare data exchange and data submission facilitation for public health purposes. Click here to listen to the webinar recording, and read on for highlights from the program.

To learn more about the “Around the Corner” webinar series and attend an upcoming program, click here.

PROGRAM INSIGHTS

  • COVID-19 is reshaping healthcare through technology. Hospitals, clinicians and payors need to use digital health tools to address the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health pandemic. How COVID-19 data and health information are captured, and then move through electronic systems, will form the foundation by which digital health tools can become effective in identifying cases, treating them and ensuring favorable outcomes.
  • API certification requirements under the 21st Century Cures Act are designed to enhance the accessibility of electronic health information. The 21st Century Cures Act’s purpose is to advance interoperability, address information blocking, support seamless exchange of electronic health information and promote patient access. Putting data from electronic health records (EHRs) into patients’ hands through consumer-facing apps will empower them to understand and take control of their health.
  • EHR vendors will be required to offer APIs that comply with the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) standard by May 1, 2022. The 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule will require EHR vendors to offer FHIR based APIs that make electronic health information more readily available to third-party applications (apps) of patients’ and providers’ choosing. API standardization will make it easier for third-party developers to build these apps, and for patients and providers wishing to use third-party apps to leverage their electronic health information for various purposes, including health information exchange and population health management.

 

  • Interoperability refers to the standards that make it possible for different EHR systems to exchange patient medical records and information between providers. Increased interoperability between EHR systems using harmonized standards allows for a more seamless transfer of patient data between providers. The interoperability requirements in the 21st Century Cures Act have the potential to advance patient access to their data and the use of information among physicians.
  • Both providers and patients can drive data exchange. One challenge impacting data exchange between patients and providers is that providers cannot always access or integrate data that patients have created with third-party tools (e.g., fitness trackers). However, there is emerging technology designed to aggregate and standardize consumer-generated health information, enabling the [...]

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Digital Delivery of Healthcare Services After COVID-19

The idea of keeping people healthy at home has become more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The expansion of telemedicine during the pandemic is expected to serve as a catalyst that will permanently change the way providers deliver care and patients engage with their health. Joined by leaders from Cricket Health, Livongo and BehaVR, we discussed factors driving the shift towards expanding digital delivery of healthcare services and the challenges – technological, regulatory and cultural – that impact such expansion. Click here to listen to the webinar recording, and read on for highlights from the program.

To learn more about the “Around the Corner” webinar series and attend an upcoming program, click here.

Audience Perspective

This poll shows that 40% of digital health consider regulatory obstacles to be their biggest challenge.

Program Insights

  • A redoubled focus on preventative care will be key to bring about effective digital health delivery. The current US healthcare delivery system, built mainly on reimbursable, episodic care, is consistently indicted for being a “sick care” system, not a “healthcare” system. Patients, especially patients with chronic healthcare conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, behavioral health and acute kidney disease, need constant, real-time support and guidance, and need their providers to have access to accurate, actionable information to manage these conditions between real-time encounters. Digital health will play a vital role in this effort.
  • New care modalities open the door to structural changes, which will need to keep pace with the healthcare system. How emerging care modalities are integrated into and affect the healthcare system are still in development, and raise a variety of concerns, from staffing and technology needs to privacy safeguards. As the healthcare system adapts to these changes, the regulations that govern care delivery, licensing, and accreditation will need to adjust as well.
  • Positive regulatory changes have been implemented during the pendency of the national pandemic emergency, but those or similar regulatory changes must continue, and gain momentum and reach, for lasting changes to occur. The actions taken by regulators during the COVID-19 public health emergency show that the government can swiftly respond to new ideas and paths to care. However, these actions are temporary, and it will take time to implement lasting change. While there is an appetite to make some common-sense changes permanent, other areas, such as multi-state professional licensing, will likely take more time due to their complexity.
  • Reimbursement models based around episodic care are a major hurdle to the adoption of on-going remote monitoring and other digital health tools. Panelists agreed that when reimbursement structures are aligned with value-based care, such that providers are reimbursed for the outcomes and on-going care management they provide, digital health tools become a critical part of the provider’s toolbox. In the meantime, [...]

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