Senate aging panel looks at role of broadband, home health technologies

The benefits of remote patient monitoring and the role that expanded broadband access will have in such monitoring was the focus of last week's U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Committee meeting, entitled "Aging in Place: The National Broadband Plan and Bringing Health Care Technology Home."

A number of case studies were presented that led to a broad bipartisan consensus that telehealth enabled home-care devices can help improve clinical outcomes and lower overall costs while increasing patient satisfaction. Dr. Mohit Kaushal, Digital Healthcare Director at the Federal Communications Commission, described how the Veteran Hospital System's Home Telehealth Program for 32,000 veterans led to a 19 percent reduction in hospital admissions and a 25 percent reduction in bed days for those with chronic conditions. A University of Virginia study showed how home monitoring established a 36 percent reduction in billable medical procedures and a 78 percent reduction in hospital stays. Study director Dr. Robin Feder noted that even with "the reduced cost of care, the efficiency of the caregivers increased by over 50 percent."

Eric Dishman, Global Director of Health Innovation and Policy at Intel Digital Health Group said that are too many barriers, far too little attention and not enough healthcare providers to adequately allow aging adults to remain healthy, happy and habituated at home.  Innovative solutions are needed to help seniors and the 50 million family members who care for them. Dishman believes that the Health 20 revolution of today is comparable to the email surge of the 1990s. These new broadband-driven capabilities are not designed to replace the classic physician-patient relationship, but will enhance and extend it to more people in larger reaches of the country.

Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) demonized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for its flawed and obstructionist stance on medical technology policy.  Dr. Farzad Mostashari, Senior Advisor to Dr. David Blumenthal at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT said that CMS "is given authority to test innovative payment and service models. These models may include care coordination for chronically ill individuals, remote patient monitoring, care management, and patient registries." Wyden called on Don Berwick, the President's nominee to be the next administrator for CMS, to make e-Care (a term coined by the Continua Health Alliance) a top priority in his nomination process and during his tenure.

For more information:
- here are the Senate hearing statements
- read this Healthcare IT News review
- check out this take by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging