Meaningful Use: A model for telemedicine adoption?

The Meaningful Use incentive program model could be used to create a telemedicine incentive program and increase adoption of the service, according to a an article published this month in Telemedicine and e-Health.

The authors, from the University of Colorado and elsewhere, note that telemedicine is a key tool that can enhance Meaningful Use through technological innovation and cost savings. They suggest that the Meaningful Use program can serve as a framework to create an incentive program to implement an integrated telemedicine-specific model to "effect system level change."

The "integrated telemedicine model," or "ITM," incentive program would parallel the current Meaningful Use program, and even comprise three stages, each requiring thresholds to be met. Stage 1 would require initial adoption and implementation; Stage 2 would focus on improved clinical processes; and Stage 3 would stress improved outcomes. The article's authors suggest that the program would improve integrated care, enhance care quality and enhance access. 

"It is anticipated that this model will improve access to care by two means: first, by increasing the number of providers willing to accept Medicaid and Medicare patients, and second, by increasing the flexibility of access options for patients by leveraging online technology," they write. 

The authors acknowledged that one of the obstacles to telemedicine is limited funding. They suggest that states could obtain Social Security Act Section 1115 demonstration project waivers to test the approach.

"The success of MU as a tiered incentive program for EHRs, as well as the precedent of using 1115 Waiver opportunities for incentive funding repayments, sets forth a glide path to successful implementation of ITM within an established and replicable framework," they say.

Telemedicine has great potential to improve patient care, but faces a number of challenges that the authors don't address, including state licensing concerns, online prescribing problems and security issues. The article also fails to discuss the problems that the Meaningful Use program has encountered, especially as providers have moved beyond Stage 1 of the program.

To learn more:
- read the article