Home Care & Telemedicine

NPR’s Talk of the Nation had a lengthy segment on the growing use of telemedicine, especially in home care.  In addition discussing the benefits to patients with limited mobility or access to specific services they need and Medicare’s current refusal to reimburse for remote doctor consultations, the segment included a letter from the Alliance’s own James Fuccione, starting at 19’09”:

[HOST NEAL] CONAN: Here’s an email question that has some aspects of that that I wanted to ask you about, this from James [Fuccione] in Massachusetts: The Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts is advocating for Mass Health, [the] state Medicaid program, reimbursement of telehealth used by home health agencies.

Many agencies part of our association use telehealth already because it improves their quality and efficiency. They use wireless weight scales, blood oximeter, blood pressure cuffs, et cetera, and depending on their condition. So in other words you can collect data over these same circuits.


CONAN: Do you use that as well?

EDISON: Yes, so we do a lot of telehome care and remote monitoring here in Missouri. One of our large home health agencies in the southwest part of the state is probably the leader in that area. One of the challenges, of course, is the inter-operability of the health information systems. So as health information technology matures, and the companies become more inter-operable, they can talk to each other and transmit information easily.

You know, as that gets – as that whole industry matures, this is going to get easier and easier so that instead of the home health agency monitoring those patients, actually the patients – patient-centered health care home or medical home, their actual health providers would be monitoring those patients on a daily basis.

You may download the entire show by clicking here.

Best Around the (Home Care) Web II

Each week, the Alliance scours the blogospherefor the news affecting the home care industry.  Here are highlights from this week:

Not All Procedures Are Created Equal: Top Five to Avoid

The Choosing Wisely campaign, an initiative by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation in partnership with Consumer Reports… is an attempt to alert both doctors and patients to problematic and commonly overused medical tests, procedures and treatments.

It took an elegantly simple approach: By working through professional organizations representing medical specialties, Choosing Wisely asked doctors to identify “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question.”

The idea was that doctors and their patients could agree on tests and treatments that are supported by evidence, that don’t duplicate what others do, that are “truly necessary” and “free from harm” — and avoid the rest.

Among the 18 new lists released last week are recommendations from geriatricians and palliative care specialists, which may be of particular interest to New Old Age readers. I’ve previously written about a number of these warnings, but it’s helpful to have them in single, strongly worded documents. — via, NYT New Old Age Blog

Are Video Games Therapeutic? Wii Think So!

Researchers asked 140 people aged 63 and older how often they played video games, if at all. The study participants then took a battery of tests to assess their emotional and social well-being. 61 percent of study participants played video games at least occasionally, with 35 percent of participants saying they played at least once per week.

The study found that participants who played video games, including those who only played occasionally, reported higher levels of well-being. Those who did not play video games reported more negative emotions and a tendency toward higher levels of depression. — via Medical News Today; original paper available for purchase here.

Skype Care: Families Prefer Check-ins By Video

For the study, 34 families were broken up into three groups: one receiving standard [pediatric] home healthcare, a web group receiving home healthcare supplemented with a web app; and a video group with home healthcare supplemented by Skype. Participating families and nursing staff completed questionnaires about the information and communication technology’s (ICT) usefulness.

The web application was easy to use, participants said, and Skype was useful for all surveyed, too. Nearly 90 percent said that video calls were better than regular phone calls. Meanwhile, 33 percent in the web group and 75 percent in the video group thought that home visits should be less frequent with the advent of Skype. Fifty percent in the web group and 100 percent in the video group said they felt more confident in caring for their child after using the technology. — via HCAF

Making Home Gardens Accessible For Seniors

It is now our turn as caregivers to share new, accessible gardens and the fulfillment of getting our hands dirty again with our senior loved ones as they age. Many seniors find that the effects of aging on joints, muscles and the freedom of movement have prohibited them from tending to their beloved gardens — via Senior Care Corner (includes a how-to video on making senior-friendly vertical planters).

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Guest Post: Your Legislators Need to Hear From You

By: Beverly Pavasaris
President, Brockton Visiting Nurse Association
President, Home Care Alliance Board of Directors

MA-State-HouseWith six home care-related bills working their way through the State House and budget meetings in progress, now is an ideal time to get to know your legislators and speak with them about the importance of home health in their districts.

Here are four things you can do to make a difference:

Talk to your Representatives

State representative and senators (find them here) rely on informed constituents to help them understand the legislation before them.  Don’t assume that they know what home health care is or why it’s important. Be prepared to educate your legislators or their health care staff. It is well worth your time.

Your congressmen and senators, also have district offices near you, whose staff you can speak with. Make it a point to reach out to them when they are in their home district offices.

Before you contact your legislators, be sure to read up about the home care-related bills proposed in this session (and which the Home Care Alliance endorsed):

  • An Act Relative to Home Health and Hospice Aides (S.1064) sponsored by Senator Richard T. Moore.
  • An Act Establishing a Certificate of Need for Home Health Care (H.1028) sponsored by Rep. Kate Hogan
  • An Act Allowing Out of State Physicians to Order Home Care Services (S.1042) sponsored by Senator Michael Knapik
  • An Act Relative to Telehealth (Senate Docket 1771) sponsored by Senator Harriette Chandler
  • An Act Relative to Pediatric Home Care Services (H.1007) sponsored by Rep. Michael Brady
  • An Act Relative to Vehicles of Home Health Clinicians (H.1864) sponsored by Rep. John Mahoney

Be sure to contact both your personal representatives – i.e., those who represent the district you live in – and those who represent the district where your business is located.

Schedule a Home Visit

Invite legislators – both state and federal – to come with you on a home visit. Seeing how home care works is more powerful than hearing description over the phone, and also gives them a chance to meet with constituents and get a good photo op.  If you would like assistance in setting up a visit, contact the Alliance’s James Fuccione.

Recruit Your Board & Employees

Your board members and employees can also be powerful advocates for home care. Inform them about the issues and have them make phone calls to their representatives as well.

Attend Lobbying Events

  • March 17th through the 20th is NAHC’s March on Washington;
  • Massachusetts Lobby Day at the State House on March 28th; and
  • VNAA Public Policy Leadership Conference is on September 18-19, 2013 in Washington.

If you have any questions about contacting your legislators, contact James Fuccione, the Alliance’s Director of Legislative and Public Affairs.

Good luck and see you at the State House and in Washington!

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

HCA Sets Improved State Policy Agenda

With a new two-year state legislative session, the Home Care Alliance has set an improved policy agenda that would strengthen the industry and asks for assistance from member agencies and fellow advocates in gathering legislative support.

boston-statehouseThe Alliance’s legislative priorities include re-filed items like the “Nurse Delegation” bill, which would allow visiting nurses to delegate certain medication administration tasks to home health and hospice aides in the home setting only. New items include establishing a “certificate of need” process for certified home health care and a state program allowing cities to grant parking leniency to clinicians visiting patients in those communities.
HCA members, friends, and advocates can assist our mission by contacting their local state senators and state representatives and ask that they cosponsor these bills. If you are unsure who represents your agency or place of residence, please visit www.wheredoivotema.com and type in your address, or contact James Fuccione at the Alliance.

Over the coming weeks, HCA will be alerting members about bills filed by other organizations and interest groups and will be asked to weigh in. The Alliance will, of course, continue to monitor and provide updates on the state’s health care payment reform law as it is implemented. Alliance staff and several member agencies sit on key boards, commissions and advisory groups and important information will be provided as it becomes available on those issues.

For more on HCA’s legislative priorities and how you can help, contact James Fuccione at the Alliance.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

State Budget Advocacy Needed on Telehealth

The FY13 state budget conference committee that will meld the House and Senate budget proposals are in negotiations and HCA needs your help in advocating so that we can achieve MassHealth reimbursement of telehealth services and adequate funding in the state home care programs.  (According to Mass Home Care, there were 935 elders on the Enhanced Community Options program waiting list as of May, 2012.)

Members and advocates can do their part by calling or emailing the members of the conference committee and asking them to:

  1. Support Senate budget amendment #692 which would direct Masshealth to reimburse for telehealth services
  2. Support the House funding proposal over the Senate’s for Enhanced Community Options Program (ECOP), line-item 9110-1500.  The House budget proposal gives the ECOP program $1.327 million more than the Senate.
  3. Support House funding proposal over the Senate’s for Elder Home Care Purchased Services, line-item 9110-1630.  The House budget gives almost $500,000 more dollars to this account which funds the Basic Elder Home Care program.

Here are the names, email addresses and phone numbers of the conference committee:

The telehealth amendment language, data, and talking points are all available on a fact sheet prepared by the Alliance.  Please contact these legislators today, even if they do not represent your area.  Please urge your legislators to do all he/she can to support this funding. In addition, when you speak to your Senator’s office, be sure to thank the Senate for adding this critical funding to their FY13 budget proposal.

If you or the legislators you speak with have any questions, contact James Fuccione at HCA.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Senate Passes $32.4 Billion Budget with Telehealth Reimbursement

Building off the success of getting a telehealth amendment in the Senate’s Health Care Payment Reform bill, the Home Care Alliance earned a victory with the Senate also passing a telehealth amendment during their budget deliberations.

The amendment establishes MassHealth reimbursement for telehealth services provided by home health agencies through regulations that have yet to be determined. The next step for the initiative, though, is to get through a conference committee where the House and Senate meet to hammer out the differences in their separate budget proposals. That final product is then sent to the Governor for his approval.

The Alliance will have new advocacy messages available on the Legislative Action Center once the legislature’s budget conference committee is named.

The Alliance’s other priorities pertaining to Certificate of Need, home health nursing rates past 60 days of care, and relative to pediatric home care were not passed, although the certificate of need issue is seeing increased interest. This and the passage of telehealth owe credit to the hundreds of emails sent out by HCA members and advocates through the Legislative Action Center.

The other major item that the Senate approved was the Human Service Salary Reserve worth $20 million. This account to provide a slight increase in pay for 31,500 human service workers in the state was not approved by the House and will be a huge bargaining chip in conference committee negotiations. If passed, the increase in pay would amount to about $12 per week, per worker.

Other amendments of note that passed the Senate budget include a special commission to study causes, prevention and treatment strategies pertaining to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). This would present an opportunity for home care to promote their chronic disease management programs and telehealth services. Also passed was an amendment that would create an advisory committee on long-term services and supports. If passed in the state’s final budget, home care agencies would have a chance to be on the committee or at least to submit data and recommendations.

Finally, other rejected amendments from the Senate included items from the state’s Home Care Program from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs that funds the ASAP programs. Specifically, the amendments for Home Care Purchased Services, Enhanced Community Options, and Case Management were all denied.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Advocacy Alert: Contact Your State Senator to Support Home Care in the FY13 Budget

The Massachusetts senate is set to debate what will become their version of the state’s FY13 budget this week. Several senators have filed amendments to the budget proposal on behalf of the Home Care Alliance that reflect industry priorities and agency members and advocates are encouraged to contact their senator to urge their support.

Below are prepared emails that can be sent simply by clicking the issue of concern, filling out the contact information form, reviewing the message and clicking “send.” Fact sheets are available by clicking the “read about this issue” link below each heading.

Support Certificate of Need for Home Care in FY13 Budget
Support Telehealth in the FY13 Budget
Please Support Home Health Rates in the FY13 Budget
Support Pediatric Home Care in the FY13 Budget

Senate offices can also be contacted by phone and a listing of each senator is available here. For those who are unsure who represents them in the senate, go to wheredoivotema.com and type in your address.

When calling, ask that they support the following amendments (mention the amendment number, name, and who sponsored the amendment).

# 559               Certificate of Need                                          Offered by Sen. Michael Moore

  • Massachusetts is one of five states without either licensure or a CON requirement for home care and the proper oversight will ensure a level of quality assurance for patients without adding cost to the Commonwealth.

# 692               Telehealth Reimbursement                              Offered by Sen. Richard Moore

  • Instructing MassHealth to reimburse home health care providers for telehealth remote patient monitoring would save costs by not having to pay for unnecessary nursing visits, is used in many other states, and the service is reimbursed by Medicare.

# 554               Home Health Rates                                        Offered by Sen. Michael Moore

  • The MassHealth home health payment rate was cut by 20 percent to patients receiving skilled nursing care past 60 days of care in December of 2008. This amendment would restore that rate and would strengthen agencies that keep at-risk MassHealth clients out of costlier settings.

# 682               Pediatric Home Care Services             Offered by Sen. Thomas Kennedy

  • This amendment does not increase any rate, but merely shifts existing payment recognizing a home health agency’s administrative requirements over independent nurses who have no such requirements.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

HCA Succeeds with Amendments to Senate Health Care Payment Reform Bill

The Massachusetts Senate spent the past week debating their landmark health care payment reform proposal, which included 265 amendments that were filed after Senate leadership released the bill to all Senators and the general public.

The Home Care Alliance worked to have several amendments filed and advocated for other amendments that were seen as beneficial.

The Alliance saw victories in the adoption of the following amendments:

  • Amendment #43, which instructs insurers to cover telemedicine.
  • Amendment #13, which allows employers to count a spouse or parent’s insurance coverage to qualify their employee under the state’s “fair share contribution” regulation.
  • Amendment # 223, which adds community-based behavioral providers to the e-Health Institute’s spectrum of care.
  • Amendment # 121, which requires hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities to provide appropriate patients with information regarding the availability of palliative care and end-of-life options.
  • An amendment installing a representative of a certified home care agency on an e-Health Commission.

The focus on health care payment reform will move to the House although the timing on that debate and process has not yet been formally announced. Stay tuned to our UPDATE newsletter and the HCA blog for the latest information. If members or advocates have any questions related to payment reform, please contact James Fuccione at the Alliance.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Advocacy Alert: Contact Your State Rep. Today to Support Home Care in FY13 Budget

The Massachusetts House of Representatives begins work on their version of the FY13 State Budget today and the Home Care Alliance needs your help sending emails to support home care’s priorities!

Visit our Legislative Action Center or see the issues below to send any of the pre-written messages that concern you and your agency. It only takes ONE MINUTE to enter your contact information, review your information, and the system will automatically send the message to the state representatives for your area.

Urge your state representative to support the following issues:

Restore Home Health Rates

»  Write Your Legislators    »  Read About This Issue  

Support Telehealth Reimbursement from MassHealth

»  Write Your Legislators    »  Read About This Issue  

Support Certificate of Need for Home Care

»  Write Your Legislators    »  Read About This Issue  

Support Pediatric Home Care

»  Write Your Legislators    »  Read About This Issue 


Compose Your Own Message

»  Write Your Legislators


Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

State Budget Update: House Ways and Means Releases Budget Proposal

The House Committee on Ways & Means released its proposal for the state’s fiscal year 2013 budget and while there are few changes in dollar amounts, here are the initial highlights:

  • The MassHealth Managed Careaccount (line item 4000-0500) follows the Governor’s proposal by increasing $183,988,029 over FY12 spending to $4,164,475,376.
  • The MassHealth Senior Care account (line item 4000-0600) also followed Governor’s budget blueprint by increasing $196,976,192 over FY12 spending to $2,763,630,662 .
  • The MassHealth Fee-for-Service Payments account (4000-0700) maintained the Governor’s proposal of increasing $129,850,745 over FY12 spending to $1,939,680,126.
  • Elder Enhanced Home Care Services (9110-1500) was given a bigger increase by House Ways & Means of $827,853 – as opposed to the Governor’s $672,147 – to a total of $47,289,340.
  • The Home Care Purchased Services account (9110-1630) is level funded at $97.8 million.
  • The Elder Nutrition account (9110-1900) is level funded at $6.3 million, which would restore a cut of $1.5 million made by the Governor.

This all essentially means that House Ways & Means followed the Governor when it came to the MassHealth accounts, which were increased with funding, but only to account for anticipated increases in enrollment. This budget proposal also shows a commitment to the state’s Home Care Program and restores the Elder Nutrition Program that funds “meals on wheels.”

What is not seen is increases to MassHealth home health rates or any language related to telehealth services, pediatric home care and a certificate of need process. The Home Care Alliance is pushing for amendments on these matters and will let member agencies, supporters and advocates know when they are officially submitted.

Additional items of note include a special commission to study elder protective services, increase public awareness of elder abuse, and establish reporting mechanisms.

Stay tuned as more information will be reported as it becomes available.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

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