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House Committee Hearing Addresses Value of Telemedicine in PA; Need for Coverage Consistency

September 12, 2018

Members of Pennsylvania’s hospital community were in Harrisburg today to appear before a key state House of Representatives panel to discuss the value of telemedicine in patient care.

The state House Professional Licensure Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 780 (Vogel), legislation to define telemedicine, put in place key consumer protections, and require insurers to reimburse for services delivered by telemedicine if those services are reimbursed when provided in person.

Judd Hollander, MD, senior vice president, healthcare delivery innovation, Thomas Jefferson University, delivered testimony on behalf of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP). Dr. Hollander emphasized that telemedicine is not a new type of medicine, but rather a new mechanism to deliver care that uses smart phones, tablets, computers, and remote monitoring devices to deliver patient care.

“Telemedicine helps to provide better access to quality, convenient health care, while also keeping costs down and improving health outcomes and population health,” Dr. Hollander said in testimony.

“It allows patients to access physicians and specialists located across the state while those patients remain in their own communities, surrounded by their own support systems.”

Dr. Hollander reinforced that there are existing protections in place to ensure appropriate care is provided through telemedicine. Providers are governed by state licensing boards, follow a medical code of ethics, and there are strong insurance fraud laws in place. He also clarified that some telemedicine is being reimbursed by some insurers; however, the inconsistency of payment by insurers is one of the main arguments for a telemedicine law.

In addition to Dr. Hollander’s testimony, the panel heard from representatives from a diverse group of Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems, including the Guthrie Clinic, Penn Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, UPMC Pinnacle, and Lehigh Valley Health Network; and Allegheny Health Network as an example of an integrated health system.

Panelists spoke to the vast array of applications of telemedicine, including primary and preventive care; chronic condition management; specialty care services, including stroke care, behavioral health services, burn care, trauma care, dermatology; and a variety of pediatric and elder care services. They testified that telemedicine can help address physician shortages, improve school safety through in-school behavioral health care, bridge the transportation gap that rural patients face, as well as address the appointment shortages that can arise in urban areas.

“The testimony from Pennsylvania’s hospital community provided clear evidence that telemedicine is an important tool to help patients get the right high-quality care, in the right place, at the right time. Hospitals across the commonwealth are using telemedicine in a variety of innovative ways to improve access to care; lower costs; and help address shortages of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals,” said Andy Carter, HAP president and chief executive officer.

“Senate Bill 780 gained unanimous support in the state Senate, and we encourage the state House of Representatives to pass this important legislation that will help Pennsylvania’s families get the care they need.”

HAP, along with the Pennsylvania Medical Society and AARP-PA, strongly supports Senate Bill 780, which unanimously passed the state Senate on June 13. The bill awaits consideration by the state House of Representatives.

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