Last week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging examined how the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan could help promote telehealth technologies that allow health care providers to remotely monitor and consult with patients, Healthcare IT News reports (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 4/26).
During the hearing, committee members demonstrated the use of some new telehealth tools and emphasized the need for broadband connectivity (Cover, CNS News, 4/26).
FCC Digital Healthcare Director Mohit Kaushal told the committee that to realize cost savings and health benefits, telehealth technology needs to be paired with:
- Expansion of broadband connectivity;
- Technological literacy and patient safety; and
- Regulatory reform.
According to Kaushal, the National Broadband Plan estimates that about 93 million U.S. residents and about 3,600 small physician's offices do not have broadband access (Attias, CQ HealthBeat, 4/23). Kaushal said an overhaul of FCC's rural health care program is necessary to improve access (Vesely, Modern Healthcare, 4/23).
He also noted that it can be difficult to identify whether new technologies fall under the jurisdiction of FCC, which regulates communication, or FDA, which regulates medical devices.
The committee also discussed other telehealth adoption barriers, such as low technological literacy among seniors and patient safety concerns (CQ HealthBeat, 4/23).
Kaushal noted that there are large disparities in the cost of broadband service and that federal government support is not enough to increase adoption (Modern Healthcare, 4/23).
Kaushal said CMS should start reimbursing for telehealth technologies to encourage health care providers to invest in such tools (CNS News, 4/26).
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the committee, said he believes that many of the new technologies could reduce Medicare costs and that telehealth should be one of CMS' top priorities (Modern Healthcare, 4/23).