Those of you that have kept your fingers close to the pulse of telehealth news in recent months have been following the progress of two bills through Congress: the ECHO Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. Fortunately, both pieces of legislation were successfully signed into law by President Obama just one day apart (December 13th and 14th, respectively) and represent a momentous shift toward the use of technology for the delivery of health care services. While the ECHO Act directly builds upon the success of the University of New Mexico’s “Project ECHO,” many of the telehealth-related directives contained in the Cures Act went by largely unnoticed in the 900+ page bill.
As many of you are aware, reimbursement for telehealth services is dictated by the following criteria: the type of medical care, the location of the patient (originating site), and the classification of the health care provider. In addition to expanding eligible originating sites, the Cures Act directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to identify the following:
- Recipients of Medicare and Medicaid services whose care may be improved by the expansion of telehealth services
- All projects, models, or initiatives being conducted (by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation) which examine the use of telehealth services
- Types of high-volume services and diagnoses that may be suitable for telehealth platforms Possible barriers preventing the expansion of telehealth services covered by Medicare or Medicaid
A final CMS report is due to Congress no later than December 14th, 2017 capturing the information above. With global telemedicine market projections as high as $113.1 billion by 2025, legislative directives such as the ECHO and Cures Acts signify the commencement of a new chapter for telemedicine in the delivery of health care.