On the heels of an Accenture report declaring the primary care segment could save $10 billion a year by using virtual health technology, a major Senate bill on telehealth is being finalized.
Lawmakers working on the draft are talking with the Senate Finance Committee’s Chronic Care Initiative group about the bill, according to the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA). The bill, drafted by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, contains two main provisions to increase access to telehealth services.
First, it would assist providers participating in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) with efforts to implement telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. Second, it would improve Medicare fee-for-service coverage of telehealth and increase access to telehealth services under the SGR (sustainable growth rate) replacement’s alternative payment models.CMS added seven telemedicine codes in 2015 with six more proposed for 2016
In addition, a group of 13 senators recently sent a letter of support to the Federation of State Medical Boards regarding its efforts to facilitate telemedicine across state lines. The federation has recruited 11 states to agree to a compact that streamlines licensing guidelines for physicians who wish to practice across state lines.
“We encourage you to continue to work with your member medical boards and states to consider participation in the compact, which will simultaneously facilitate multistate practice while ensuring states’ ability to regulate medicine and ensure patient safety,” the letter says.
In other telehealth news, the American Medical Association has formed a group focused on integrating telemedicine services into the CPT code set. The group, which includes physicians, payers, and telemedicine entrepreneurs, aims to make changes and additions to CPT codes to allow providers to more accurately bill for home monitoring, m-health, and other telemedicine services.
“Tapping into the clinical and technological expertise of the healthcare community and innovators produces the practical enhancements that CPT needs to reflect the coding demands of the modern healthcare system,” said Dr. Steven Stack, AMA president.
Lastly, CMS recently launched the second phase of its three-year project testing whether high-intensity treatment services, including telehealth, can reduce avoidable hospitalizations for long-term nursing home residents. According to Healthcare IT News, the project seeks to prove that this method would be as effective in treating residents as an on-site clinic and includes Medicare payments at a level similar to the payments clinicians would receive for treating beneficiaries in a hospital. CMS reported promising initial results during the first phase of the project, with five of the seven health systems showing some degree of reduction in hospitalization levels.
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