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Re-introduced bill aims to curb hospital re-admissions through telehealth technology

WASHINGTON — Legislation to expand the use of telehealth technology under Medicare to reduce hospital re-admissions in rural and underserved communities has been re-introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The bipartisan Fostering Independence Through Technology Act, S. 596, would create a pilot program to provide budget neutral incentives for home health agencies across the country to use remote patient monitoring to better monitor Medicare beneficiaries, improve health outcomes and reduce Medicare expenditures.

Thune and Klobuchar’s bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create pilot projects providing incentives for home health agencies to purchase and utilize remote patient monitoring and communications technologies. The technology would establish performance targets based on historic Medicare spending. The performance targets would measure success both through health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries and savings under Medicare due to the technology.

“This innovative RPM technology has the ability to revolutionize patient care and dramatically reduce the amount of money Medicare spends on hospital re-admissions each year,” stated Thune. “Not only could this technology reduce costs and improve health outcomes, but it also offers patients the individual freedom to stay in their homes, reducing costs associated with nursing homes and long-term care facilities. I'm pleased to have worked with many industry stakeholders in developing this legislation over the past few years, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this legislation through Congress.”

“Telehealth technology is critical to reducing healthcare costs and ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to high-quality and affordable health care,” added Klobuchar. “By expanding the use of innovative home care technology, this legislation will make health care more efficient and will allow seniors to stay in their homes longer without jeopardizing their health, safety or access to healthcare professionals.”

Due to recent changes in law, hospitals are now subject to payment penalties when a Medicare beneficiary is re-admitted to a hospital within a prescribed period with a complication that is preventable. Currently, about 1-out-of-5 Medicare patients who are hospitalized end up back in the hospital within 30 days, which creates significant unnecessary costs. This technology would aim to allow patients to be more closely monitored using non-invasive technology to help address possible post-hospitalization complications before they result in a re-admission to the hospital.

 

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