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Healthcare Organizations Push to Look at New Data Sources to Assess Telemedicine in Medicare

May 24, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Several healthcare organizations have sent a letter to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) regarding the use of alternative data sources for cost estimates and analyses of telemedicine utilization in the Medicare program.   

In the letter, penned by Ascension Health, CHRISTUS Health, Stanford Health Care, and others, the authors point to evidence of telemedicine’s effectiveness from the commercial sector, the  Department  of Veterans Affairs  (VA),  Medicaid,  and  other  programs when producing  future  cost  estimates  and  analyses of telemedicine utilization  in  the  Medicare  program.   

The authors note that they recognize the difficulty of finding sufficient Medicare data on telemedicine given that it is virtually unused in the Medicare program. “However, alternative data sources can and should  be  used  to  inform  and  produce an analysis of providing Medicare beneficiaries access to telemedicine, including telehealth and remote patient monitoring,” they write.

It continues, “The lack of Medicare data is understandable given the outdated statutory restrictions on telemedicine:  since federal law prevents many providers from being paid when they use telemedicine to serve Medicare beneficiaries, obviously, little data is available. We have been encouraged by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’  increasing—but  limited—allowance  of  telemedicine  as  part  of  new  demonstration  projects, but we are concerned that it will be too difficult to isolate telemedicine’s impact, as it is one of many variables measured.”

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