Legislator: Mobile tools can boost federal healthcare programs

Legislation recently introduced to Congress by Rep. Scott Peters (R-Calif.) seeks to increase the use of wireless technologies in healthcare to ultimately bring care costs down.

The bill--the "Health Savings Through Technology Act"--calls for the creation of a commission that would inventory existing data and examine any cost-savings attainable through the use of wireless health technologies. The commission then would devise a strategy for integrating the most successful tools into federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

"The vast majority of Americans now use some sort of mobile device today," Peters said in an announcement touting the legislation. "San Diego is ahead of the curve in wireless healthcare discovery, so providing incentives for it supports economic growth in my district, and helps bend the cost curve across the country."

Peters called the federal government's current attempts at measuring the cost-effectiveness of technological innovation over time poor, adding that it serves as a "disincentive to innovation."

The American Telemedicine Association offered support for the bill, saying in a statement that mobile technology has the potential to "fundamentally change healthcare delivery."

Earlier in November, Peters introduced legislation to improve access to telehealth services for active-duty military, retired veterans and their dependents by expanding reimbursement for such care--the 21st Century Care for Military & Veterans Act. He called that legislation a "commonsense approach" to care delivery.

In March, the "Fostering Independence Through Technology Act"--a bill aimed at boosting telehealth use to reduce hospital readmissions for Medicare beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas--was reintroduced to Congress by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Thune (R-S.D.). That legislation calls on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to develop pilot projects that will provide incentives for home health agencies that choose to use remote patient monitoring and communications technologies.

In January, American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous called the government a "lagging partner" for the telehealth industry in a blog post and said that government policies have proven to be the biggest barriers to telehealth deployment for two decades.

To learn more:
- here's the legislation text
- check out the announcement from Peters