A bipartisan bill is advancing in the Senate to enable Medicare to fund expanded telehealth for rural areas. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act sounds like a good thing. I have two reservations. First is bureaucracy. The bill would allow The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to test telehealth services of a hospital through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The test would measure cost, quality, and effectiveness. If a hospital gets through all the hoops, Medicare would reimburse its services. The other concern is the legislation is only for rural healthcare. The sponsoring senators are from Colorado and Michigan. Telehealth is just as relevant in major urban cities as it is in rural areas. Nevertheless, the bill is a step in the right direction.
A Becker’s Healthcare publication reported the story (see Proposed bill seeks to expand Medicare reimbursement for telehealth). The story quoted Peter Rasmussen, MD, medical director of distance health at Cleveland Clinic. He said, “It’s going to be less expensive in the long-term to provide telehealth services this way. The real opportunity in all of this is in the development of virtual disease management programs for things like managing chronic hypertension and diabetes through remote monitoring and care coordinators, and minimizing the number of actual bricks-and-mortar visits that [patients] have to undergo.” Right on.
Read more about telehealth in Health Attitude.