The drumbeat for increased applications for telehealth seems tobe getting louder by the day. Almost simultaneously, a marketresearch firm issued an aggressive forecast for the mobile healthapplications market, while industry groups called upon Congress toclear away obstacles to further integration of telehealth systems,products and services into the nation’s health care system.

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The market research firm, Visiongain, forecast a $6.7 billion (sales)marketplace for mobile health apps by the end of 2014.Visiongain supported the figure by stating that various forces weredriving a more rapid growth in telemedicine than had beenexperienced in the past. The lobbying initiative by health careindustry associations, vendors and a health care system seemed tosignal that the time may be here for telemedicine to make a quantumleap forward.

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In a letter to U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette(D-Colo.), the lobbying organizations called upon Congress to getbehind a series of recommendations designed to take advantage ofthe opportunities inherent in the telemedicine realm for better health care at alower cost.

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Upton chairs the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, whereDeGette serves as a member. They created the 21st Century CuresInitiative designed to identify ways to accelerate the search forcures of certain diseases.

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The recommendations included:

  • Authorize the use of telehealth in all accountable care andbundled payment programs;
  • Use remote monitoring to assist patients with chronicobstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, as wellas those with diabetes who are patients of federally qualifiedhealth centers, and include the flexibility to expand monitoring tothose with other chronic conditions;
  • Authorize the use of telehealth payments for population healthmanagement at all critical access hospitals and FQHCs;
  • Enable Medicare patients to use video visits and remotemonitoring.

“Despite an outdated and restrictive legal and regulatoryenvironment, these transformative technologies have beendemonstrated to result in increased quality of care, reducedhospitalization, avoidance of complications and improvedsatisfaction, particularly for the chronically ill, and reducedcosts, among others,” the letter said. “Congress has theresponsibility to take necessary steps to help Americans realizethe benefits of these solutions.”

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Signatories to the letter included health care IT nonprofitHIMSS, the American Telemedicine Association, the Continua HealthAlliance, ACT/The App Association, the Alliance for Home Dialysis,the RCHN Community Health Foundation, the TelecommunicationsIndustry Association, Christus Health, Qualcomm, Intel, Panasonic,Philips and Baxter International. They asked the congressionalrepresentatives to request a Congressional Budget Office analysisof the costs associated with expanded telehealth applications.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.