2013 has been a record year for proposed bills related to telemedicine, said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association’s monthly webcast—This Month in Telemedicine.
With more than 30 bills on the docket, “it’s a hot time for telehealth and other health technology,” Linkous said.
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) introduced H.R. 3306, the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013, said Gary Capistrant, ATA’s senior director of public policy. The bill addresses shared savings for reduced medical readmissions, home telehealth for dialysis and more.
Other proposed legislation focuses on parity coverage and one-state licensure for providers which originated with the Department of Defense. A bill seeks to expand that model to the Veterans Administration and Medicare.
Linkous and Capistrant also discussed the recently proposed SOFTWARE Act which covers the FDA’s regulation of medical software. Determining which products need to go through FDA approval processes and which should perhaps be subject to more post-market surveillance is “an important debate going on,” said Linkous.
Also, Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) just introduced H.R. 3577 to establish the Commission on Healthcare Savings through Innovative Wireless Technologies.
While activity has been brisk on the federal level, Linkous said states also have been busy on the telehealth front. However, “every state is a little different in licensing, standard of care and scope of practice. There is a lot of variation and that’s changing dramatically as we have manpower shortages. Those three issues affect telemedicine.”
As the association works to expand telehealth, Linkous said “it’s important to focus on guidelines.” ATA already has several available for free on its website and they are in the processing of creating guidelines for burns, teleICU, telepathology and primary and urgent care.
Going forward, “the important thing now is making sure we have all of you working with regulatory agencies to make sure that the legislation language is actually implemented and passed through to providers,” Linkous said. He also called for ATA members to increase awareness of telemedicine among their state medical boards and maintain communication with the regulatory agencies that are implementing the legislation.