The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to maximize telehealth’s ability to improve health outcomes, care delivery, and cost effectiveness.

CCHP Newsroom

  • New Bill Seeks to Expand Medicare Reimbursement for Telemedicine

    mHealth Intelligence

    A bill to expand Medicare coverage for telehealth services that has been kicked around on Capitol Hill since 2013 is once again in Congress’ hands. U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) has re-introduced the Telehealth Enhancement Act (H.R. 3360), which – according to a summary of the 2015 version – would expand the list of healthcare sites eligible for Medicare reimbursements for telehealth to include urban critical access hospitals, sole community hospitals, home telehealth sites and counties with populations of fewer than 25,000 people. The bill, introduced on July 24, did not include text as of July 27. Harper, whose co-sponsors on the bill are U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), first introduced the bill in 2013, then amended it in 2015. “Telehealth saves money and helps save lives,” Thompson said when the bill was first introduced in 2013. “By expanding telehealth services, we can make sure the best care and the best treatments are available to all Americans, no matter where they live.” This latest bill is one of a growing list seeking to compel the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand its acceptance of telehealth. Whether any of those bills makes it to law remains to be seen, but one did receive House approval this past week and could be headed to passage later this year.

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  • Using Telehealth to Put Patients at the Center of Healthcare

    RHI hub

    It seems like we aren’t making much progress but I think, when you look back over time, there have been incremental changes at the state and federal level. So, I think we are getting there. I’d like to break the challenges down into several areas, the first being federal policy. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services limits the definition of telehealth to only the use of live video, which is its most inefficient form. Rural elderly could benefit from being around their families in their own home and community if they are monitored remotely but instead, because that remote home monitoring is not reimbursed or allowed under Medicare, they have to move to an urban facility. It’s an issue that continues to be confounding. We also know that “store-and-forward” asynchronous telehealth consultation has been proven to be valuable as well as cost-efficient, yet is still not considered for reimbursement by Medicare. The other kicker is that a medical facility has to be located in a narrowly defined rural location designated by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in order to receive coverage for telehealth services.  

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  • Telehealth’s Future Success Requires a Paradigm Shift

    RHI hub

    Like kids who ask “Are we there yet?” when starting a long journey, the destination of telehealth’s adoption into mainstream medical practice has been elusively far off. In the 1960s and 70s, the true potential of telepractice was demonstrated when technology made video conferencing from remote rural clinics feasible. However, technology at that time was very expensive, which was the first obvious roadblock to mainstream integration. The 1980s brought dramatic reductions in cost, size, and reliability of video technology, but bandwidth emerged as a significant roadblock. In the 1990s, fiber began to replace copper, and the Internet replaced direct connection, so the roadblock of bandwidth began to resolve. With technology being resolved, telehealth hit the detour of state-based licensing. Just as we figured out how to drive cross-country with state-based driver’s licenses, the problem can and is being resolved by regulatory agreements. However, it has taken longer than expected because medicine is much more complicated than “red means stop” and “green means go.” 

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