There was a full house for a public hearing on telemedicine held Sept. 12, 2018 at the Capitol in Harrisburg. And, while those who testified had differing viewpoints, one message was consistent – Telemedicine has the potential to reduce health care costs and improve quality of care and patient access in Pennsylvania.
The House Professional Licensure Committee held the hearing to hear perspectives from health care providers and insurers on Senate Bill (SB) 780, a bill that seeks to create a statutory framework for telemedicine, establish patient protections, and ensure that telemedicine services are reimbursed. The committee, which is chaired by Rep. Mark Mustio, is expected to consider SB 780 this fall.
In the weeks prior to the public hearing, Rep. Mustio and other legislators traveled across the commonwealth and had nearly 50 stakeholder meetings – including several telemedicine demonstrations from Pennsylvania-based health systems like Guthrie, Penn Medicine, and UPMC. Many health systems shared that the telemedicine reimbursement policies are not consistent across the payers with whom they work.
The physicians and other health care providers who testified during the hearing stressed that telemedicine is a care delivery mechanism – one tool out of many in the toolbox to provide care to patients – and not another type of care.
The lawmakers heard examples that conveyed the breadth of services telemedicine can provide: for example, specialist care for patients who might otherwise have to drive long distances to access treatment, mental health care for students, child abuse evaluations, stroke care, and follow-up care to help prevent hospital readmissions. The possibilities for telemedicine will continue to expand as technology advances.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED) strongly supports telemedicine legislation. We will continue to advocate for SB 780 and urge House members to pass the bill before the conclusion of the 2017-2018 legislative session.
Soon, PAMED will be providing an opportunity for Pennsylvania physicians to share their support for SB 780 with Pa. House members. Look for an upcoming email from PAMED on how to take action. And, visit our website at www.pamedsoc.org for news and updates. The voices of physicians are essential to ensuring that telemedicine legislation becomes law in Pennsylvania.
To learn more about telemedicine and PAMED’s other legislative priorities, visit www.pamedsoc.org/advocacy.