Healthcare is on the minds of many these days. Medical issues are a frequent subject of public commentary as well as discussions among both state and federal regulators. That interest extends to healthcare technology.
For states, the cost of medical technology is a central theme.
That’s the word from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which every year publishes a list of top lawmaker priorities around the country. NCSL notes that newly-mandated insurance and information health exchanges are a “dominant issue for legislative sessions.”
By the end of this year, states are supposed to have a health insurance exchange (HIX) in place. But many haven’t moved forward, in part because the associated technology infrastructure upgrades are costly and federal officials still haven’t announced final rules for obtaining assistive funding.
Meanwhile healthcare providers are being pressured to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) as part of the push toward health information exchanges (HIEs). Cost is just one factor causing many in the medical community to balk at moving to technology-based procedures. Significant incentive programs have been created to reward practices of all sizes that integrate this new technology, because development of HIEs depends on electronic record-keeping.
Federal cooperative agreements require states to have an HIE in place by late 2014 or early 2015. States have until this summer to begin offering Medicaid-related EHR incentive programs.
States legislators are also concerned about meeting higher Medicaid efficiency and quality requirements, because the still-weak economy isn’t likely to generate enough revenue to fully fund budgets. Medical IT improvements could fall prey to cost-cutting efforts. The pressure will only increase, however, because the Affordable Care Act expands eligibility in 2014.
Federal lawmakers are taking up medical technology issues, too.
The medical community has voiced concerns that regulatory issues are hindering implementation of remote-access healthcare. Practitioners are licensed by the state but could easily be called upon to treat patients across state lines using tele-health technologies. Technically, this isn’t permissible because the specialist wouldn’t be properly licensed.
A recent survey published in Telemedicine and e-Health reported 61% of doctors agreed or strongly agreed that this issue is a barrier to expanding remote health care. To resolve this problem and simplify licensing procedures in general, Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) plans to introduce a bill this spring which would allow creation of a single, integrated credentialing database as well as streamlined license application procedures.