The time has come to break down the walls and obstacles to improving care with telehealth.
As one walks the vast depths of the Orlando Convention Center, you begin to see many technology solutions that have links to telehealth. While many vendors and technologies have been offering this for years, the biggest obstacle has been the payments tied to providers and patients using telehealth. At dinner last night, I had the opportunity to listen to an executive from one of the leading Children’s hospitals discussing a great program they are piloting using various technologies linked to their Epic My Chart portal for monitoring asthma patients remotely. As many of know, the technology for telehealth has been around in many shapes and sizes for years, the obstacle in many organizations is actually getting reimbursed for using the technology. The payment models used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) do not currently include many telehealth technologies and solutions already available.
Among current federal legislation under consideration are the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act.and the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act, which aim to promote cost savings and high-quality care under the Medicare program through the use of telehealth.
While the above proposed federal regulations are in discussions, state legislators and state medical societies also are key players in policies around telehealth, given that physicians must be licensed in the state in which they practice. Common legal barriers to rapid advancement of telehealth include credentialing and privileging, online prescribing, malpractice liability, licensing of physicians and other healthcare providers, and informed consent.
So what do we do? With a new administration and leadership taking form at CMS, now is the time to talk to state and federal legislators about the benefits of telehealth. The technologies are there, begin pilot projects like my dinner friend last night and be ready to advance better care with telehealth solutions.