WASHINGTON– Patients and doctors may have a new way to combat rising health care costs: communicating with video technology. That’s the goal of companion bills introduced in the Senate and House this week.
The bipartisan legislation aims to increase the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring for those with Medicare, those being served in community and rural hospitals, and those with chronic conditions. Telehealth uses technology such as video cameras to interact with patients out of the doctor’s office to cut down on visits.
The author of the Senate bill, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said that telehealth is the future of health care.
“It saves money and improves health outcomes,” Schatz said 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.”
Co-sponsors of the Senate bill include Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
“I’ve seen firsthand the positive value of telehealth and remote monitoring in Maryland that connects ICU patients with critical care staff based at larger medical centers,” Cardin said in a statement. “We have the technology today to promote the delivery of high quality care in an efficient and cost-effective way around the country.”
The bill is known as the “Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act.” It was introduced in the Senate Feb. 2 and was referred to the Committee on Finance. A companion House bill, by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who is a co-sponsor of the House bill, said in a statement that the current system in place does not fit the needs of today’s health care.
“All Americans deserve access to quality, timely, and affordable health care, no matter where they live,” Welch said. “To ensure greater adoption of this technology, Congress must modernize the outdated policies governing this type of health care delivery.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the success of telehealth in reducing costs for patients was demonstrated by the Veteran’s Health Administration. In a program that began in 2003, patients with chronic illnesses used video phones and vital sign monitors at home. After just four years there was a 19 percent reduction in hospital visits for its 30,000 patients.
The legislation is supported by more than 50 health-related organizations, including the American Telemedicine Association, the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association.
Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, said that his organization supports the bill’s effort to make health care more affordable.
“It’s a clear ‘win-win’ for the American people and helps to bridge the 21st century technology gap between policy and better health care options,” Linkous said in a statement.