Telehealth, m-health advocates call for major reimbursement changes

Dr. Mohit Kaushal, digital healthcare director of the Federal Communications Commission's Omnibus Broadband Initiative, is a big booster of mobile healthcare technologies. (What other government official would personally invite reporters to cover the unveiling of the healthcare chapter of the National Broadband Plan and then personally email the document?)

Kaushal was but one speaker on a panel last week who advocated for changes in healthcare reimbursement policies to cover money-saving and lifestyle-improving mobile and telehealth technologies. "In order to enable [wider access to care via mobile health], there has to be a lot of innovation and new technologies, but also changes in reimbursement policy," Kaushal said at an event hosted by the Institute for e-Health Policy, a project of the HIMSS Foundation.

Medicare may be a $400 billion program, but Government Health IT reports that another panelist, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), noted that CMS spends a paltry $2 million on reimbursements for telehealth products like home monitoring devices and mobile health applications. While the new health insurance reform law does allow Medicare to undertake pilot programs that focus on quality and cost savings, Wyden wants more comprehensive changes to payment mechanisms. "We need to move the reimbursement iceberg to one based on quality not volume," Wyden said.

"Reimbursement should be based on the data," added Dr. Dale Alverson, president-elect of the American Telemedicine Association and medical director of the Center for Telehealth at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences.

For more:
- read this Government Health IT story