Bill seeks to integrate digital health into Medicare, Medicaid, VA, military care

By: Neil Versel | Dec 2, 2013        

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Rep. Scott PetersA new bill in Congress seeks to promote wireless, mobile and digital technologies in healthcare as a way to reduce costs and improve the quality of care.

The proposed Health Savings Through Technology Act (H.R. 3577), from Rep. Scott Peters (R-Calif.), would establish a commission to collect and examine data on how new technologies can save money in healthcare, then make recommendations for integrating digital health into Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs.

This follows introduction by Peters—with two Democrats among the three co-sponsors—of another bill that would allow the Military Health System’s Tricare system and the Department of Veterans Affairs to widen their coverage of telehealth services.

“As we work to find more cost-effective ways to provide health care to patients, while maintaining the high-quality care that they’re used to and expect, we must look toward innovative wireless technologies, many of which are already in use. These technologies are being used to reduce emergency room visits, give patients more control over their care and eventually bend the cost curve.” Michael Campbell, a Peters spokesman, told MobiHealthNews via e-mail.

“The federal government needs to take a more comprehensive look at how we can implement wireless devices into the medical system and this bill aims to get that process moving,” Campbell explained.

A press release from Peters, who represents digital health hot spot San Diego, said that the federal government generally “does a poor job” of including the impact of new innovations when estimating future budgets. “This short-sighted process is a disincentive to innovation and harms the potential for technology to reduce the cost of providing health care,” the release said.

Peters’ legislation specifically mentions “digital health, mobile health (mHealth), telehealth, telemedicine, e-Care, remote patient monitoring and the collection of patient-generated health data” as examples of “wireless health information technologies.”

The panel, to be called the Commission on Health Care Savings through Innovative Wireless Technologies, would have 19 members, including three appointed by the president, four by the secretary of Health and Human Services and four by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The remaining eight members would be appointed by congressional leadership of both parties.

This commission would have to deliver a final report, with its recommendations for achieving the proposed law’s goals through legislation and administrative actions, within 18 month of its formation. “It is up to the parties receiving the commission’s recommendations, be it the administration, CMS/HHS, Congress, or others, how they will implement them and change policy,” Campbell said.

Peters’ office said the bill has the backing of Qualcomm, the Connect open-source software community for health information exchange, the American Telemedicine Association, the California Healthcare Institute and two California life sciences associations, namely Biocom in the southern part of the state and BayBio to the north.