Health IT

New bill seeks to remove roadblocks to telehealth

Shutterstock image. Copyright: hafakot

Lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill today that seeks to expand telehealth services while reducing health care costs.

Telehealth uses telecommunications technologies, such as live videoconferencing, to monitor patients and provide medical care remotely. It offers more convenient access to health care providers for patients who suffer from chronic illnesses, have difficulty traveling to physical facilities or live in rural areas far from medical specialists.

"Telehealth is the future of health care. It saves money and improves health outcomes," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in a statement. "Our bipartisan bill puts us on a path to transform health care delivery, making it less costly and more convenient for patients and providers."

Under the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, patients would be able to schedule doctor's appointments and receive timely care "whenever they need it," he added.

"The purpose of this bill is to improve health care in America," said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). "The byproduct is you can save money. There's no question about it. It makes our system more cost-effective and efficient."

The bill would cut costs for patients and providers by implementing alternative payment methods and removing reimbursement restrictions under Medicare. An analysis conducted by consulting firm Avalere Health estimates that the adoption of the bill's three major provisions would save $1.8 billion over 10 years.

Sens. Cochran, Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) referenced the benefits of telehealth adoption they've witnessed firsthand in their home states.

"Connecting people with medical professionals through telehealth and remote patient monitoring provides quality and timely care, helps seniors manage their health and delivers cost savings," Wicker said. "This bill seeks to replicate the success that we have made in Mississippi using this technology for patients across the country."

Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) introduced companion legislation in the House.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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