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ATA To Medicare: Broaden Hospital Telemedicine Participation Rules

The American Telemedicine Association wants Medicare to approve telemedicine services for stroke and intensive care.

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The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) is urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow hospitals to use videoconferencing and other telehealth technologies to meet the conditions of participation in the Medicare program. If the CMS accedes to this request, it will have the effect of encouraging hospitals to expand their use of telemedicine, the ATA hopes.

In a letter to acting CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner, ATA president Jonathan Linkous asked the agency to revise its conditions-of-participation rules to encompass hospitals' use of telemedicine in the areas of emergency medicine, stroke care, and intensive and critical care services.

In addition, the letter suggested that CMS change its requirements for discharge planning to include planning that might help avoid unnecessary readmissions. Although this section doesn't mention telemedicine, Linkous told InformationWeek Healthcare that it's aimed at motivating hospitals to include remote patient monitoring in discharge planning for certain kinds of patients. Some hospitals are already doing this so that the CMS won't penalize them for excessive readmissions, he said.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

The most common use of telemedicine in hospitals today is in intensive care units. An increasing number of facilities have "eICUs" that allow intensivists to monitor ICU patients remotely. The ATA letter notes that this approach could help hospitals that are unable to hire intensivists or that don't have enough of these specialists to provide around-the-clock coverage in the ICU.

The CMS currently does not bar the use of eICUs for Medicare patients but the program pays only onsite critical-care specialists, not those who do remote monitoring. Last summer, the CMS proposed a redefinition of telehealth services, including eICUs, that might lead to expanded coverage of those services.

The ATA missive pointed out that stroke victims could have better outcomes if they received recommended therapy soon after their strokes. But according to a recent study, the letter said, only 50 percent of the U.S. population has timely access to a stroke center, and rural hospitals tend to lack knowledge of thrombolytic therapy. Hence, the ATA concluded, the use of telemedicine could help improve stroke care and lower the cost of caring for stroke patients.

Some hospitals already have come to the same conclusion. These facilities are beginning to use "stroke networks"--either state-sponsored networks or private entities that contract with facilities--to supplement their staff neurologists and stroke specialists via telemedicine, Linkous said.

Overall, the letter said, increasing the use of telemedicine in hospitals would:

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RGZ
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RGZ,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/10/2012 | 11:17:15 PM
re: ATA To Medicare: Broaden Hospital Telemedicine Participation Rules
Really interesting. I am a fervent supporter of the use of technology to improve Health Care and connect providers amongst themselves and to patients. In the case of sub-specialties, with the increasing demand for services and the huge deficit, mHealth and telemedicine are the natural and intuitive solutions.We have been doing Telemedicine for trauma (Teletrauma) for several years and since March 2011, mHealth Teletrauma, using iPod Touch devices to connect Trauma surgeons to rural, smaller hospitals. Check TEDx talk "iPod Teletrauma" at TEDxDirigo.com
Thanks. rgrosssz@gmail.com
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