Many years ago, I was asked to work with a group of Senators in Washington, DC to come up with an equitable bill to reimburse physicians for their time when they consult via video for a second opinion. I also sat on the committee that discussed payment from insurance companies to medical personnel when they perform a video visit over video conferencing. Although we worked hard to get these bills passed, it met with opposition from individuals who knew nothing first hand of the practice of video visits and imposed legislation to limit the payment to and for the individuals who use the service.
A new bill that has been introduced will help eliminate some of that “red tape” and allow the people using the practice to do so without limitations of borders and hoops to jump through. As you might read between the lines, people are starting to believe that technology is here to stay and that maybe it is time to loosen the reigns a bit to help those who use the service to get the most out of it.
I am not a political person by nature, but this bill will have my attention as it slowly moves through the Washington, DC cog…let me know what you think!
With all the political hype surrounding candidates visiting Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina you may think it strange that I am recommending you pay attention to Tennessee and Colorado. Why? A Tennessee Congresswoman and a Colorado Senator have sponsored bills in the House and Senate respectively that would greatly expand telehealth’s role in providing better and more convenient patient care.
It’s called the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act of 2015 and it’s currently under review in the Healthcare Subcommittee under Ways and Means.
How would this bill affect telehealth, especially for Medicare services?
1) It Defines Conditions- The following conditions are specifically designated as eligible for Telehealth under this bill:
- Chronic hypertension
- Ischemic heart diseases
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Heart failure and/or heart attack
- Chronic kidney disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Total hip and/or knee replacement procedures
- Parkinson’s disease
2) It Sets Parameters for Types of Remote Care- This bill goes further than previous legislation to define more remote technologies that would be eligible for payment. These include:
- Remote monitoring technologies, including remote device management for purposes of remotely interrogating or programming a medical device outside the office of the physician specialist involved.
- Bi-directional audio/video technologies.
- Physiologic and behavioral monitoring technologies
- Engagement prompt technologies
- Store and forward technologies.
- Point-of-care testing technologies.
3) It Removes Restrictions on Time and Location of Rendering Services- Current restrictions on providing remote services across state lines as well as requirements for all remote care to happen in real time are being eliminated in this bill. This means a doctor in New York could remotely treat a patient in New Jersey by reviewing the patient’s remote monitoring data and then updating care instructions without needing to have a real time one on one video conversation. IT also removes the requirement for the patient to be a certain distance from the physician in order to make remote care available.
Given all of the proposed changes to telehealth policy above, it is obvious as to how this bill would not only help telehealth expand in rural areas where there is limited access to medical resources, but also in urban areas as well. It would increase physician choice by eliminating geography as a requirement for payment, and create efficiencies by utilizing technology that allows physicians to access current biometric data about a patient and their condition, even if the patient wasn’t available for a face to face call at that time. The passage of a bill of this nature could really do great things for telehealth, so let’s hope it makes it out of committee for a vote. This could be the only telephone bill that you ever actually hope to get.
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About Bob Higginbotham
Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org