The expansion of telehealth services to improve patient access and outcomes and reduce health care cost is one of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) top three “Congressional Asks” for 2014. The official release states that HIMSS works with stakeholders to develop their organizational priorities and recommendations for the U.S. Congress. The HIMSS specific and actionable requests will be presented to Congress during the annual HIMSS Public Policy Summit on September 18, 2014. These are the top three HIMSS congressional requests:
- Minimize disruption in our nation’s health system emanating from federally-mandated health IT program changes.
- Fund the national coordinator for health IT to achieve interoperability, improve clinical quality, and ensure patient privacy and safety.
- Expand telehealth services to improve patient access and outcomes and decrease healthcare costs.
The telehealth related recommendation specifically states, “to expand access to quality care, help control costs, enhance secure interoperability of health information, and improve quality for rural and underserved populations, Congress should pass legislation that enables the nationwide realization of the full benefits of telehealth services.”
There are six bills relating to telehealth pending the 113th Congress. HIMSS highlights and advocates for H.R. 3306, the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013 that was introduced last October and sponsored by Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Mike Thompson (D-CA). According to the white paper, the bill specifically includes the following:
- Require FCC rules on healthcare clinician access to telecommunications and information services to disregard clinician location.
- Cover telehealth services in Medicare hospital and post-acute care payment bundles.
- Allow Medicare accountable care organizations (ACOs) to use telehealth in the same way as Medicare managed care plans.
- Facilitate Medicare home-based kidney dialysis.
- Create a new Medicaid optional package for high-risk pregnancy and birth networks
In addition HIMSS recommends changes to CMS’ Telehealth Reimbursement Provisions to specifically include store and forward for the rest of the country besides Alaska and Hawaiʻi, widen the eligibility outside of the current rural definitions that account for only about 20% of the country, expand synchronous consults for patient-provider, include coverage for in-home monitoring, and address licensing issues, among other things.