- For personal health technology to truly impact health outcomes, governments and the private sector need to endorse policies that support its adoption and use, a new report by the Personal Connected Health Alliance says.
- Key priorities include reimbursement for personal connected health approaches and technologies, expansion of telehealth to include remote patient monitoring and use of patient generated data in urban areas, and frameworks and guidelines that advance interoperability and data privacy.
- The alliance said it will use the report to mobilize its membership to work toward these strategic objectives.
Over the past decade, a number of laws such as the HITECH Act and MACRA, have been enacted to increase access and use around digital health technologies. The 21st Century Cures Act, passed late last year, also supports health IT. For example, the law calls for CMS to look into ways to expand use of telehealth to beneficiaries and calls on ONC to create a framework that would enhance interoperability between healthcare entities.
Currently, however, Medicare only reimburses for two-way audiovisual patient-doctor encounters, and only for a subset of patients and providers, the report notes.
As part of its research, the group surveyed members about their priorities for personal connected health policy. The top three concerns were increasing payment for remote patient monitoring, lowering Medicare restrictions on personal connected health tools and promoting interoperability standards.
As more hospitals adopts EHRs and other digital technologies, data sharing offers great opportunities to improve and coordinate care. However, barriers such as proprietary restrictions on data sharing have prevented providers from realizing the full potential of interoperability to date. That is starting to change as EHR vendors adopt open platforms.
Still, the road to interoperability has been slow. A recent analysis in Health Affairs found that while hospitals have made some progress in interoperability, their efforts have focused more on transmission than usability. Just 18.7% of hospitals said they “often” use patient data from outside providers when making patient care decisions.
Last month, the American Medical Association announced a new initiative aimed at improving data sharing and patient care using a shared framework. Initial efforts will focus on costly and burdensome healthcare conditions such as hypertension management and diabetes prevention, the AMA said.
To promote interoperability, the PCHA report recommends focusing on large public and private payers and targeting research on its benefits and cost savings to the healthcare system.
“As the biggest player in the US healthcare system, Medicare could make a big push towards interoperability requirements, but the evidence required to convince Congress of the cost and health benefits of connected health interoperability is lacking,” the report says. “Large private insurers could also make great progress in the US healthcare system by taking the initiative on adoption of interoperable standards."
There are bipartisan efforts in Congress to boost digital health. Recent legislative proposals would broaden telestroke coverage for Medicare recipients, expand telehealth access to beneficiaries with chronic conditions and increase use of remote patient monitoring. In its 2018 Physician Fee Schedule final rule, CMS also took steps to advance telehealth use by unbundling certain reimbursement codes and requesting input on remote patient monitoring.