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Congressional Representative Signals Willingness to Facilitate Telehealth Services

Written by Ellen Janos and Carrie Roll

In opening remarks at the Health Information Technology hearing series last week, Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, indicated that she intends to introduce legislation that would create a workable federal definition for telehealth services.  Representative Matsui noted that a federal definition for telehealth services would create certainty in the area of telehealth and “spur innovation and research in the private sector and programs like Medicare.”  Representative Matsui also stated that Congress “must continue to chart a technology friendly course that promotes better patient care for all Americans.”

There is currently no standardized definition of telehealth.  Health care companies, hospitals, clinics, and others that wish to establish and conduct telehealth initiatives across state lines are often stymied by contradictory state definitions and regulatory regimes.  Legislation setting forth a standard telehealth definition would allow providers to streamline their telehealth initiatives.

The American Telemedicine Association estimates that more than 10 million Americans directly benefited from telehealth services in 2012, more than double from just three years ago.  That trend is expected to continue.  For example, some retail pharmacies now offer “virtual” clinic visits via telemedicine technologies, and health care providers are rapidly embracing technologies that allow remote monitoring of patients with various chronic conditions.  As the availability of telehealth services grows, providers will be looking for the federal laws to catch up with the technology.  A federal definition of telehealth would represent a significant step forward in reaching that goal.

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Authors

Karen S. Lovitch

Member / Chair, Health Law Practice

Karen S. Lovitch is a Mintz attorney who represents health care companies in regulatory, transactional, and operational matters. She advises them on health care regulations such as the Stark Law and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988.
Ellen L. Janos uses her in-depth knowledge of health care regulations to help Mintz clients with government investigations, financial transactions, and corporate compliance activities. She also advises traditional health care providers, investors, and start-ups on telehealth initiatives.

Carrie Roll