Dogtown Media Supports Connected Health Initiative’s Request for Biden-Harris Administration to Combat COVID-19 With Digital Health Tech

November 25, 2020 - 8 minutes read

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The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked unfathomable damage on the lives of Americans and the country’s economy. To move forward in the right direction, we must take new and drastic action to address this crisis. This includes employing cutting-edge developments in medical technology to the best of our abilities.

Dogtown Media fully supports the Connected Health Initiative’s request for the Biden-Harris administration to extend the existing declaration of a public health emergency (PHE) so that the use of connected health technology is available to all U.S. citizens during this time of need.

Innovation Can Help Flatten the Infection Curve

It has become painfully clear that we must leverage connected medical technologies such as telehealth if we are to ever beat COVID-19. But antiquated regulations will stand in the way unless the declaration of PHE is extended. The Connected Health Initiative (CHI) aims to make that happen.

An initiative of ACT | The App Association, CHI is a coalition of healthcare industry stakeholders and partners that strives to lead efforts to effect policy changes that allow medical providers to harness the power of technology in order to improve patient engagement and outcomes. Its steering committee consists of the American Medical Association, Apple, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Dogtown Media, and many other notable figures in the tech and healthcare space.

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CHI recently sent a letter to the Biden-Harris administration that not only congratulates them on their victory in the 2020 Presidential Election but also urges them to continue to use digital health technologies such as telemedicine, remote patient monitoring (RPM), artificial intelligence (AI), and other modalities to defeat the coronavirus pandemic. Each of these innovative modalities allow us to implement effective and necessary measures to flatten the infection curve in the United States.

Telehealth Technology Is Key to Managing The COVID-19 Crisis

Alongside CHI, we believe that congressional action focused on permanent telehealth policy changes can help provide immense relief from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such changes would play an integral role in defeating this crisis. Not only this, but permanent policy changes for connected healthcare tools can also help to modernize American medical laws so that they correctly reflect the value that these paradigms offer. We also think that Congress should prioritize providing all Americans with the high-speed broadband infrastructure needed to use these digital health tools.

Of course, we know that pursuing these congressional efforts can take time. So it’s critical that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) continues to extend the existing declaration of PHE. This provides millions of Americans with the allowance to use connected health technology. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth and RPM have been invaluable in preventing, diagnosing, and treating American citizens as we all adhere to social distancing guidelines. These must not only be maintained throughout the entirety of the pandemic but also built upon so that this country is better equipped to handle future health crises.

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Should the PHE expire before the Biden-Harris administration is in place, the new HHS Secretary under them should immediately reinstate it.

Actions That Can Help Us Fully Leverage Digital Health Tools

CHI’s letter to the Biden-Harris administration is meticulous in detail and spans several suggestions. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most crucial ones:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) should ensure that Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and rural health clinics (RHC) can provide RPM services.

Both FQHCs and RHCs are key actors on the frontlines of America’s medical ecosystem. Thus, they should be able to monitor key patient-generated health data (PGHD) metrics for the populations they are serving on a permanent basis. This includes those receiving treatment for COVID-19.

CMS should provide Anti-Kickback Statute relief for digital health.

Many clinicians are remotely monitoring COVID-19 patients. This has raised concerns that any equipment or access to software platforms provided free of charge could inadvertently trigger Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) liability. The CHI has requested that HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) provide clarity that access to software platforms for PGHD or telehealth at low or no cost doesn’t violate the AKS.

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HHS should provide certainty with regard to HIPAA’s application to various remote technologies during the PHE.

The HHS’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced enforcement discretion for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that clarifies that the use of private, secure telehealth tools which aren’t part of the provider’s official offerings will not draw a penalty as long as the provider makes their patients aware of the risks. CHI is urging OCR to issue guidance that certain telehealth tools are merely “conduits” and thus don’t require business associate agreements (BAAs). The guidance should also clarify that the providers of these telehealth services should only store electronic protected health information (ePHI) temporarily.

HHS should leverage AI-enabled technology to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s no doubt that AI has incredible technology to augment healthcare by preventing hospitalizations, reducing complications, and improving patient engagement. Unsurprisingly, public health experts and providers are already using AI to combat COVID-19. This has given rise to a variety of opportunities and challenges for U.S. policymakers to consider (e.g., bias, inclusion, and transparency). As a coalition with many leading developers of AI, CHI urges for the design of healthcare AI systems to be informed by human-centered design, real-world workflow, and end-user needs.

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COVID-19 Will Come To an End

From New York City to our hometown of Los Angeles, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented tragedy and hardships to many of our lives. The Biden-Harris administration represents an opportunity for America to tackle this problem in a new and better way.

We stand by CHI’s request of the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect to fully leverage telehealth and other emerging technologies to mitigate this crisis. With time, proper guidance, and unity, this too shall pass.

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