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Webinar Presents Telehealth Data and Recommendations

WASHINGTON July 7, 2010 Independent analyst firm Ovum presented a webinar to present the drivers and barriers to telehealth adoption, the current competition environment, and recommendations for health-care providers and patients.

The webinar was presented by the authors of two recent telehealth reports, “Telehealth: Something old, something new,” and “Telehealth in Europe – From pilot to mainstream?” Christine Chang, presented the North American telehealth climate, while Cornelia Wels-Maug focused on telehealth issues in Europe.

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WASHINGTON July 7, 2010 Independent analyst firm Ovum presented a webinar to present the drivers and barriers to telehealth adoption, the current competition environment, and recommendations for health-care providers and patients.

The webinar was presented by the authors of two recent telehealth reports, “Telehealth: Something old, something new,” and “Telehealth in Europe – From pilot to mainstream?” Christine Chang, presented the North American telehealth climate, while Cornelia Wels-Maug focused on telehealth issues in Europe.

Wels-Maug presented a survey that asked health organizations what their top three investments priorities were. In Europe, 7% of respondents said telehealth was one of their top three priorities, while 12% of North Americans said it was a top three priority.

The United States has federal funding in place for telehealth projects and research, and includes telemedicine in its National Broadband Plan. Americans can also receive Medicare reimbursements for telehealth services, which mainly include remote monitoring devices for senior citizen patients.

Due to Canada’s large rural population they have enacted Health Infoway, a project dedicated to smarter health service methods. Out of their 181 current Health Infoway projects, 48 directly related to telehealth.

Both countries use broadband technology to provide extended healthcare to military installations and prisons.

In the European Union each country has its own legislation for telehealth. Only France has clear legal basis for telehealth practice. According to Wels-Maug, the professional code of conduct for most countries is what determines the basis for telehealth. She said “Some countries require the physical presence of a physician or the health care provided is considered to be illegal.” Austria, Germany, and Poland are all countries that restrict telehealth services.

There are also universal barriers to telehealth adoption in both Europe and North America. Chang said the lack of a sustainable reimbursement model will cause telehealth providers to initially lose money since the equipment and infrastructure necessary to run a telehealth service is expensive. A lot of the current telehealth projects falter because they are being run on grant money for a pre-determined period of time, and cannot afford to continue services once that period ends. A lack of research is another barrier to adoption. Most telehealth providers are still in the testing stage, and health organizations are unwilling to invest in telemedicine without knowing which telehealth technologies and business models are the most effective.

Chang said “Stakeholder apprehension is the most difficult challenge facing telehealth, and will require a cultural shift to overcome.” It will be difficult to convince doctors and patients that a video consultation is equal to that of a physical consultation. Privacy concerns are data protection are also prevalent in adoption telehealth. Another problem facing adoption is licensure issues. Telehealth communication across country borders can be impossible depending on the regulations set by the countries involved. However, Chang said it is important for long-distance communication to be available for telehealth’s success. Patients are more comfortable with the doctors familiar with their health history, and could access care from their doctors while on vacation or traveling away from their homes.

Wels-Maug recommended that countries and health organizations continue to invest in clinical research to discover which practices and technologies will be the most useful in large-scale telehealth services. She also stressed the importance of winning over stakeholders, saying many were not even sufficiently aware of telehealth. Addressing ethical issues and privacy and security concerns will also make stakeholders more comfortable with telehealth.

Chang gave advice to those who want to succeed in the telehealth market. She said they would need to utilize technologies currently available, saying something like developing an iPhone application for telehealth could be a good marketable service. She also said that health organizations need to develop a sustainable business model and that these organizations should be creative. Before beginning any telehealth undertaking, she advised health providers to assess the technology involved, and make any upgrades necessary.

Lindsey is working with BroadbandBreakfast.com through an internship with the National Journalism Center. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in professional writing. She has worked in Virginia Tech's public affairs department, and she was an assistant editor of one of the college's news-magazines. Lindsey is from Chatham, Va.

Education

Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears

Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.

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Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.

“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group the Self-Insurance Institute of America. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”

Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.

Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”

Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help

Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.

But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.

This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.

Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.

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Education

FTC Approves Policy Statement on Guiding Review of Children’s Online Protection

The policy statement provides the guiding principles for which the FTC will review the collection and use of children’s data online.

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FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 – The Federal Trade Commission last week unanimously approved a policy statement guiding how it will enforce the collection and use of children’s online data gathered by education technology companies.

The policy statement outlines four provisions in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, including ones related to limiting the amount of data collected for children’s access to educational tools; restricting types of data collected and requiring reasons for why they are being collected; prohibiting ed tech companies from holding on to data for speculative purposes; and prohibiting the use of the data for targeted advertising purposes.

“Today’s statement underscores how the protections of the COPPA rule ensure children can do their schoolwork without having to surrender to commercial surveillance practices,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan at an open meeting on Thursday.

Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter added Thursday that although COPPA provides the strongest data minimization rule in US law, it’s enforcement may not be as strong, saying that “this policy statement is timely and necessary.”

Slaughter, who was the acting FTC chairwoman before Khan was approved to lead the agency, said last year that the commission was taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling privacy and data collection practices of ed tech companies, which has seen a boom in interest since the start of the pandemic.

Thursday’s statement comes after lawmakers have clamored for big technology companies to do more to prevent the unnecessary collection of children’s data online. It also comes after President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address earlier this year that companies must be held accountable for the “national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”

Lawmakers have already pushed legislation that would reform COPPA – originally published in 1998 to limit the amount of information that operators could collect from children without parental consent – to raise the age for online protections for children.

Thursday’s FTC statement also seeks to scrutinize unwarranted surveillance practices in education technology, such as geographic locating or data profiling. Khan added that though endless tracking and expansive use of data have become increasingly common practices, companies cannot extend these practices into schools.

Review is nothing new

“Today’s policy statement is nothing particularly new,” said Commissioner Noah Phillips, saying that the review started in July 2019.

Commissioner Christine Wilson, while supporting the statement, was also more withdrawn about its impact. “I am concerned that issuing policy statements gives the illusion of taking action, especially when these policy statements break no new ground.”

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Health

Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say

Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.

Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.

Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.

Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.

Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.

The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.

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