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In telehealth hearing, House committee weighs access against cost

Members of the U.S. Household Committee on Power and Commerce convened Tuesday to examine the long term of digital treatment. 

Policymakers and stakeholders emphasized the value of balancing entry to treatment with addressing concerns about fraud and overutilization.   

“Modernizing telehealth coverage to fulfill the moment” is a single of lawmakers’ most essential responsibilities, explained Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif.  

“I’ve explained before the genie is out of the bottle concerning flexibilities and growth, and I believe this,” explained Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

At the exact same time, Guthrie pointed out, broadband entry carries on to be a limiting issue – both equally in rural and urban environments.   

“We have to have to be certain quality of treatment is still specified by the provider, no make any difference the environment,” explained Guthrie.

The listening to came on the heels of the reintroduction of the bipartisan Telehealth Modernization Act in both equally the Household and the Senate, which would safeguard entry to protection right after the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Witnesses presented a assortment of techniques for correctly addressing the long term of telehealth.

Some, this sort of as Stanford Wellbeing Care Chief of Staff members Dr. Megan Mahoney, famous that the transition to telehealth amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic enabled extra than 225,000 of the system’s people to full their 1st movie go to.  

In lots of techniques, explained Mahoney, telehealth has strengths of its very own as a modality. 

For case in point, she explained, “I have located a comprehensive treatment evaluate can be extra effortlessly and accurately performed at home,” with capsule bottles close at hand.  

She stressed the value of addressing the originating and geographic internet site requirements outlined in Segment 1834(m) of the Social Security Act, which lots of users of Congress have signaled their help for eradicating.  

Mahoney explained the constraints inadvertently build a “donut hole” for Medicare Charge for Service people, permitting the health and fitness process to offer treatment to absolutely everyone but them. She urged policymakers to figure out that movie visits and in-particular person visits require the exact same effort and hard work and medical choice-creating by vendors, and as a result must be reimbursed equally.  

“Telehealth is a tool in our toolkit that is largely substitutive, not additive, to in-particular person treatment,” she explained.  

Harvard Clinical School Associate Professor of Wellbeing Plan and Drugs Dr. Ateev Mehrota proposed a extra calculated solution. 

Though the have to have for telehealth is unmistakable, explained Mehrota, policies must inspire “bigger-worth” applications for treatment and discourage “decrease-worth” ones.  

He encouraged an enhance in the use of alternative payment styles, primarily for most important treatment vendors, physician licensure reciprocity across state traces, coverage of all sorts of telemedicine for higher-possibility patient populations the place entry is probable difficult and protect digital treatment for the rest of the inhabitants “only the place there is proof of worth or there is compelling have to have.” He also advocated towards payment parity for telemedicine and towards extensive-term protection for audio-only visits.   

“Although I figure out telephone calls may well enhance entry for disadvantaged populations, I am involved about a long term with a two-tiered process the place the weak and disadvantaged have phone calls and the wealthy have movie visits,” explained Mehrota.

When it comes to fraud increase – a usually invoked concern in discussions about telehealth – some professionals explained the issue was overblown.  

“The AMA thinks these concerns are misplaced specified CMS’ existing applications for combating fraud and abuse, the enhanced potential telehealth services give for documentation and tracking, and the absence of details to suggest that fraud and abuse or duplication are of unique issue for telehealth services,” explained Dr. Jack Resneck, a member of the American Clinical Affiliation Board of Trustees, in prepared testimony.

Resneck pointed out that despite the fact that bad actors may well use telehealth to defend fraud, they are often not fraudulently billing for telehealth.   

“Denying people entry to telehealth as a result of these few fraudsters isn’t going to remedy the fraud issues and isn’t going to assistance the people,” explained Resneck.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, lifted an interesting challenge: how to be certain telehealth provision alone isn’t going to turn out to be overly burdensome.

Citing a modern study suggesting professionals underestimated EHRs’ impact on burnout right after the HITECH Act, Burgess questioned how to go policies about digital treatment and details sharing that don’t make the problem worse. Purchaser Organization Team on Wellbeing president and CEO Elizabeth Mitchell argued that data siloing would basically make things more durable for clinicians.  

“We’ve got to be certain details is meaningfully shared in a way that is straightforward to use,” she explained.  

All round, users of Congress stay bullish on digital treatment, despite the fact that the information of payment parity, fraud avoidance and protection specifics continue on to arise as hurdles.

“Suppliers and people like telehealth, so let’s do our best not to mess this up,” explained Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind.  


Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.