Oct 9, 2019

More doctors treating patients by text message

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More doctors are linking up with companies that allow them to treat patients via text or online chat, AP reports.

Why it matters: Texting provides a convenience even video chats can't provide, but there are limits to how much a doctor can help without seeing a patient at all.

The state of play: For millions of Americans, chats have a chance to limit expensive emergency room visits, improve care access and encourage more patients to keep tabs on their health.

  • Health Affairs published a survey in 2018 from the American Medical Association that found a small number of physicians (about 15%) have used telemedicine.
  • Still, the companies that primarily provide the services, CirrusMD, 98point6 and K Health, are increasingly going mainstream.
  • Walmart’s Sam’s Club, for instance, announced in September that 98point6 visits are included in a care program it's testing, per AP.

Go deeper: Telemedicine has enabled new forms of Medicaid fraud

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Health care's fraud and abuse laws are getting overhauled

Doctors are at the center of changes to self-referral and anti-kickback laws. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Trump administration is proposing to loosen regulations that prohibit doctors from steering patients insured by federal programs to facilities where they have a financial interest and that outlaw health care companies from offering bribes and kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals.

Why it matters: The industry has long clamored for an overhaul to these laws, which companies say obstruct their goals of providing "value-based care." But critics worry the broad and vague changes could engender more fraud and abuse than there already is.

Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019

Podcast: Elizabeth Warren's health care revolution

Elizabeth Warren's Medicare for All proposal would end health care as any American has ever known it, for both providers and patients.

Go deeper: Warren's dream health care world

Four health care questions for a better Democratic debate

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

If tonight’s Democratic debate is anything like the earlier ones, it will feature an extended back-and-forth about whether to eliminate private health insurance, and then move on from health care. But there’s a whole lot more that’s also worth asking about.

The big picture: We basically know what the candidates will say about the question of private insurance, because they’ve said it all before. So here are four other questions that might also help illuminate the choice voters face on such a deeply personal, wildly complex topic.

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019