The letter notes that the group is hoping to build on former successes and is seeking “recommendations on policy areas most likely to prompt Congressional action, including ideas that are fiscally responsible and able to generate bipartisan support.”
The RFI specifically requests input on recommendations that would:
- Expand access to telehealth and remote monitoring, especially in rural or otherwise underserved communities;
- Improve patient outcomes, whether by expanding access to specialists or other providers or by easing the day-to-day patient experience;
- Encourage easier and expanded use of existing telehealth and remote monitoring technologies, many of which suffer from low uptake rates; and
- Reduce healthcare costs for both patients and federal programs, including Medicare.
Alston & Bird Advisory and Suggestions
Mar 19, 2019 Alston & Bird, LLP issued an advisory on March 25, 2019, that mentions some possible legislative and/or regulatory actions that may help to encourage “wider telehealth adoption, promote access to care, and improve patient outcomes through technology-enabled health care.”
One idea included in the advisory is the recommendation that rural restrictions continue to be removed to allow for telehealth services to be provided to an expanded reach of patients in urban areas. The advisory notes that Congress has been working at slowly removing this restriction, including removing geographic requirements for home dialysis end-stage renal disease and telestroke treatment effective January 1, 2019, and for substance abuse treatment effective July 1, 2019.
Another recommeded possibility is to bring a consistency to remote patient monitoring. The advisory references the inconsistencies in CMS’ announcement regarding reimbursement of remote physiologic monitoring and the reversal of a decision regarding when such reimbursement is permitted, based on who provides the RPM services. Alston & Bird note that in this instance, CMS may be in the best position to resolve these inconsistencies, congressional action may prove to be helpful.
Another concept mentioned in the advisory, and one that has been previously mentioned by several in the health care arena, is to highlight additional opportunities for the adoption of telehealth and virtual services. This legislation can be as focused or wide-ranging as Congress is comfortable with, but it is likely that Congressional action on furthering the adoption of telehealth and telemedicine would go a long way to making it more commonplace.