Former Senators form Alliance to raise awareness of advances in telehealth


WASHINGTON — Led by former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Senator John Breaux, D-La., the Alliance for Connected Care has been launched to promote policy reform around telehealth and remote patient monitoring.

Board members of the Alliance include CVS Caremark, Walgreens, Teladoc, HealthSpot, Doctor on Demand, Welch Allyn, MDLIVE, Care Innovations, Cardinal Health, Verizon and WellPoint.

Long thought of as an issue affecting only rural areas, advances in technology and broadband deployment have fostered new models of delivery in health care settings across the country. From management of chronic disease, improved access to specialty and convenient primary care and mental health services, telehealth is fast becoming an integral component in the delivery of American health care.

The three former senators are leading a diverse coalition working to raise awareness among policymakers about the advancements in telehealth, and to establish a regulatory environment in which patients have more access to connected care and medical providers are empowered to deliver safe, high-quality care using advanced delivery methods.

 “Increased adoption and use of new and innovative technologies is at the core of many of the payment and delivery reforms being tested across the nation and is also central to increasing patient engagement. We must ensure that our regulatory environment appropriately balances the exciting advances in technology for patients, while still maintaining safeguards that allow innovation,” Daschle said. “To put it in perspective, the legal structure around telehealth was established in 2000 when cell phones were still just phones.”

“It is time to make connected care a bipartisan priority in Washington,” Lott said. “Imagine an elderly woman with diabetes who can consult a doctor about managing her disease without having to leave her home; or a working parent who can video chat with his child’s pediatrician; or a patient in need of mental health services, but too afraid to go to an office, now able to access care through a laptop; or a doctor who can monitor a patient already discharged from the hospital. We must improve access to the kinds of innovation that can improve patients’ lives.”

“Despite this rapidly developing technology, and increasing interest among patients and physicians in using connected care tools, legal and regulatory barriers continue to limit mainstream acceptance of the technology,” Breax said. “Fully realizing the promise of connected care demands urgency among policymakers to foster a regulatory structure that enables safe use of remote patient care technology.”

Alliance leaders noted that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been a pioneer in connected care, with nearly half a million veterans receiving more than 1.4 million remote care contacts during fiscal year 2012. Commercial insurers, large employers and Medicaid are also much further ahead in covering telehealth services than Medicare. In fact, 20 states and the District of Columbia require coverage of telehealth by commercial carrier and 45 states allow reimbursement of telehealth services in Medicaid, the Alliance stated.

Alliance representatives noted that, to date, policies and regulations have emphasized keeping people out of the hospital with prevention, chronic disease management, care coordination and readmission penalties. However, government healthcare programs generally do not reimburse home health agencies for remote patient monitoring or pay for patients to check in with care providers from their homes via real-time video. 

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