Welcome to the WBD News Flash, your weekly highlight of HR benefits and healthcare news. Weekly, we will provide you with the top trending industry news stories in healthcare, human resources, legislation, benefits technology and administration, and more. Make the WBD News Flash your go to reference for current events!

Telehealth Expansions Could Become Permanent

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are pushing for telehealth expansions made under the COVID-19 public health emergency to become permanent. Services such as remote patient monitoring and virtual care could be continued by home health agencies if the rule is passed.

The news comes as Health Affairs publishes a study stating primary care practices could lose $15 billion this year due to the pandemic, a number the study says could double if telehealth flexibility rules are not continued. The study states that: “due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), virtually all in-person outpatient visits were cancelled in many parts of the country between February and May 2020.”

Wash Your Hands! Your Apple Watch is Listening

Several updates are coming for Apple Watch wearers, but the most timely one might be automatic handwashing detection. Not only will the Apple Watch remind wearers to wash their hands when they get home (using location data), it will also learn to sense washing hands and set up a timer. The watch’s motion sensors, microphone, and machine learning will detect the motions and sounds of handwashing. If you don’t make it to twenty seconds, your watch will prompt you to keep scrubbing those hands.

Handwashing frequency and duration will also show up on the iPhone’s Health app, perhaps firmly cementing clean hands as an important health parameter.

Mental Health Improvements Just a Pet Away

Could dogs and cats be helping remote workers with stress and loneliness? That’s the conclusion a survey by Banfield Pet Hospital seems to have reached. Reported in Employee Benefit News, the study has found that employees who have started working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic have found positive mental health improvements from spending more time with their pets.

Conversely, those surveyed also said they worry about their pets’ response to their return to work. The recommendation? Ease the transition with slow changes to a new routine, so that pets — and humans — aren’t shocked by a sudden nine-hour absence.