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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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CMS Takes a Preliminary Step to Make Certain COVID-19 Waivers Permanent

On August 4, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule to update its payment policies under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) for calendar year 2021. The proposed rule was issued in tandem with a presidential executive order, which directed the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to propose regulations expanding telehealth services covered by Medicare. CMS stated that the proposed rule “is one of several proposed rules that reflect a broader Administration-wide strategy to create a health care system that results in better accessibility, quality, affordability, empowerment, and innovation.”

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE), CMS has issued several temporary waivers and flexibilities that expand telehealth reimbursement under Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the duration of the COVID-19 PHE. CMS issued these waivers under authorities granted pursuant to HHS’s public health declaration, as well as legislation passed in response to the pandemic. Many of these waivers have substantially altered the Medicare telehealth reimbursement landscape and, as we detailed in our prior On the Subject, many can be made permanent via regulatory action. The proposed rule represents the first official word that CMS will take such action to make certain of its waivers permanent. These policy changes have the potential to greatly increase the availability of telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries around the country.

CMS will accept comments, either electronically or by mail, on the proposed rule until 5 pm EDT on October 5, 2020.

Changes to Medicare Telehealth Services

CMS proposed to add several services, listed below, to its list of services that may be delivered via telehealth. Many of these were previously added on an interim final rule basis for the duration of the PHE. The proposed rule would keep them on the Medicare telehealth services list even after the PHE ends.

CMS also proposed a new method for adding or deleting services from the Medicare telehealth services list. Currently, CMS evaluates new services for inclusion based on two categories: Category 1 is for services that are similar to professional consultations, office visits and office psychiatry visits that are already on the Medicare telehealth services list, while Category 2 is for services that are not similar to those already on the list, but that would still be appropriate to include because the service is accurately described by the corresponding code when delivered via telehealth and providing the service via a telecommunications system results in clinical benefit for the patient. Because of the COVID-19 PHE, CMS has proposed to add a Category 3, which would include services that would be temporarily on the Medicare telehealth services list. CMS proposed this third category because, while CMS currently has the authority to waive or modify Medicare telehealth payment requirements during the PHE, that authority will expire once the PHE [...]

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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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Available Now – 2019 Digital Health Year in Review

Throughout the past year, the healthcare and life science industries experienced a proliferation of digital health innovation that challenged traditional notions of healthcare delivery and payment, as well as product research, development and commercialization, for long-standing and new stakeholders alike. Lawmakers and regulators made meaningful progress towards modernizing the existing legal framework to both protect patients and consumers and encourage continued innovation, but these efforts still lag behind the pace of digital health innovation. As a result, some obstacles, misalignment and ambiguity remain, and 2020 will likely be another year of significant legal and regulatory change.

Click here to read our review of key developments that shaped digital health in 2019 and set the groundwork for trends in 2020.

 




2018 Digital Health Data Developments – Navigating Change in 2019

Data privacy and security legislation and enforcement saw significant activity in 2018 and early 2019. McDermott’s 2018 Digital Health Year in Review: Focus on Data report – the first in a four-part series – highlights notable developments and guidance that health care providers, digital health companies and other health care industry stakeholders should navigate in 2019. Here, we summarize four key issues that stakeholders should watch in the coming year. For more in-depth discussion of these and other notable issues, access the full report.

  1. EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enhances protections for certain personal data on an international scale. US-based digital health providers and vendors that either (a) offer health care or other services or monitor the behavior of individuals residing in the EU, or (b) process personal data on behalf of entities conducting such activities should be mindful of the GDPR’s potential applicability to their operations and take heed of any GDPR obligations, including, but not limited to, enhanced notice and consent requirements and data subject rights, as well as obligations to execute GDPR-compliant contracts with vendors processing personal data on their behalf.
  2. California passes groundbreaking data privacy law. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which takes effect on January 1, 2020, will regulate the collection, use and disclosure of personal information pertaining to California residents by for-profit businesses – even those that are not based in California – that meet one or more revenue or volume thresholds. Similar in substance to the GDPR, the CCPA gives California consumers more visibility and control over their personal information. The CCPA will affect clinical and other scientific research activities of academic medical centers and other research organizations in the United States if the research involves information about California consumers.
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) continues aggressive HIPAA enforcement. OCR announced 10 enforcement actions and collected approximately $25.68 million in settlements and civil money penalties from HIPAA-regulated entities in 2018. OCR also published two pieces of guidance and one tool for organizations navigating HIPAA compliance challenges in the digital health space.
  4. Interoperability and the flow of information in the health care ecosystem continues to be a priority. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) submitted its proposed rule to implement various provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in September 2018; this is one of the final steps before a proposed rule is published in the Federal Register and public comment period opens. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its own interoperability proposed rule and finalized changes to the Promoting Interoperability (PI) programs to reduce burden and emphasize interoperability of inpatient prospective payment systems and long-term care hospital prospective payment systems.



National Roadmap for Health Data Sharing: FTC Advocates Preservation of Privacy and Competition

On April 1, 2015, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which assists with the coordination of federal policy on data sharing objectives and standards, issued its Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap and requested comments.  The Roadmap seeks to lay out a framework for developing and implementing interoperable health information systems that will allow for the freer flow of health-related data by and among providers and patients.  The use of technology to capture and understand health-related information and the strategic sharing of information between health industry stakeholders and its use is widely recognized as critical to support patient engagement, improve quality outcomes and lower health care costs.

On April 3, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission issued coordinated comments from its Office of Policy Planning, Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Consumer Protection and Bureau of Economics.  The FTC has a broad, dual mission to protect consumers and promote competition, in part, by preventing business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers.  This includes business practices that relate to consumer privacy and data security.  Notably, the FTC’s comments on the Roadmap draw from both its pro-competitive experience and its privacy and security protection perspective, and therefore offer insights into the FTC’s assessment of interoperability from a variety of consumer protection vantage points.

The FTC agreed that ONC’s Roadmap has the potential to benefit both patients and providers by “facilitating innovation and fostering competition in health IT and health care services markets” – lowering health care costs, improving population health management and empowering consumers through easier access to their personal information.  The concepts advanced in the Roadmap, however, if not carefully implemented, can also have a negative effect on competition for health care technology services.  The FTC comments are intended to guide ONC’s implementation with respect to: (1) creating a business and regulatory environment that encourages interoperability, (2) shared governance mechanisms that enable interoperability, and (3) advancing technical standards.

Taking each of these aspects in turn, creating a business and regulatory environment that encourages interoperability is important because, if left unattended, the marketplace may be resistant to interoperability.  For example, health care providers may resist interoperability because it would make switching providers easier and IT vendors may see interoperability as a threat to customer-allegiance.  The FTC suggests that the federal government, as a major payer, work to align economic incentives to create greater demand among providers for interoperability.

With respect to shared governance mechanisms, the FTC notes that coordinated efforts among competitors may have the effect of suppressing competition.  The FTC identifies several examples of anticompetitive conduct in standard setting efforts for ONC’s consideration as it considers how to implement the Roadmap.

Finally, in advancing core technical standards, the FTC advised ONC to consider how standardization could affect competition by (1) limiting competition between technologies, (2) facilitating customer lock-in, (3) reducing competition between standards, and (4) impacting the method for selecting standards.

As part of its mission to protect consumers, the FTC focuses its privacy and security [...]

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