HHS Delivers Report to Congress on E-Health and Telemedicine

In a new report to Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) touts telehealth’s promise to increase access to quality care and improve outcomes and is cautiously optimistic about its ability to reduce costs.

Congress requested the report from HHS in December 2015 as part of an appropriations bill. The request urged the department to increase collaboration and coordination across federal agencies on E-health and telemedicine.

The report, delivered to Congress in mid-August, surveys the current status of e-Health and telemedicine and the federal government’s efforts to expand its use.

The report highlights telehealth’s potential to improve access to quality care for underserved populations, particularly in rural areas.

It also singles out chronic disease management as a promising area for expanding the use of telehealth. The report noted, though, that “aside from care for mental health, the majority of telehealth provided for chronic conditions to date has been limited to asynchronous monitoring.”

HHS appears less certain about telehealth’s ability to save money, saying only “Some analysts also see the potential for telehealth to reduce costs.”

The report identifies the main issues that must be addressed to expand telehealth use: “Payment reform is critical, especially more comprehensive coverage by Medicare; state licensure barriers continue to temper enthusiasm about telehealth among health care providers; and high-speed broadband connections still do not reach many rural hospitals and clinics, despite significant growth in fiber-optic infrastructure nationally. These issues, along with privileging and credentialing, are key telehealth policy challenges.”

Click here to read the full HHS report on E-health and telemedicine.

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