Congress under pressure to boost remote patient monitoring

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

A group of organizations is putting pressure on Congress to allow more reimbursement for mHealth, arguing that using telemedicine and remote patient monitoring will propel the nation's healthcare landscape closer to its achieved goal of value-based care.

In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a dozen organizations are asking legislators to approve a proposal – called the "bridge"  that allows providers to use telemedicine during the transition period as the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) is put into effect and accountable care organizations transition to risk-based models.

The groups criticized Medicare's current reimbursement strategy for telemedicine as being "outdated" and limited. It's calling on Congress to expand that envelope to allow providers to use – and be reimbursed for – remote patient monitoring technology for patients with chronic conditions.

"Achieving the goals of value-based care will require investment in new tools that improve patient engagement, increase care coordination, decrease inappropriate resource utilization and allow providers to monitor and communicate with patients for whom they will now be responsible for total cost and quality of care," the letter explained. "Connected care technologies like telemedicine and remote patient monitoring are an investment that will help actualize the vision embedded in these transformative programs and deliver on the promise of value over volume in healthcare."

In arguing for the expansion of telemedicine, the groups noted that several studies have shown ways that technology helps avoid expensive hospital or urgent care visits and readmissions, and that the "clinical practice improvement activities" included in MACRA's Merit-based Incentives Payment System (MIPS) call for expanded access, care coordination and population health management. Finally, the group noted that nearly half of all consumers and almost 80 percent of physicians already use mobile devices, making that a natural avenue for improved care.

Recognizing that enacting changes to Medicare's current telemedicine program will be complex, the groups are urging Congress to "create a transition mechanism" by which the Health and Human Services Secretary can lift current restrictions and enable providers to be reimbursed for remote monitoring of chronic care patients through at least 2021. This, they said, would act as a "bridge for providers who have committed to changing their practices to comply with MACRA or for ACOs working to achieve risk-based models.

The letter is signed by the AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American Osteopathic Association, the National Association of ACOs, the Alliance for Aging Research, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Health, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care and Stanford Health Care. 

See also: 

Congress gets another chance to advance telemedicine

2 telemedicine bills set to return to Congress

HIMSS calls on Congress to improve telehealth access