HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PROMOTION ACT OF 2006
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Mr. HULSHOF. Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the Chair of the Health Subcommittee, especially for her bold initiative and leadership on this bill, for really trying to wrestle with a very important issue and looking ahead and being a visionary as far as employing technology and how we can improve health care in this country. It is a good bill. I am proud to be an original cosponsor.
I would especially like to touch some the telemedicine, telehealth, provisions. I appreciate very much that Mr. Thompson of California and I have put together a bill where the bottom line, Mr. Chairman, is that with advancements in telecommunications, health care providers in small communities can now access resources that are available in the finest hospitals and academic institutions in the country.
The quality of one's health care should not be dictated by one's ZIP Code. So I am very excited about the fact that technologies like interactive video conferencing, the Internet, satellite, are already systematically changing the face of our Nation's health care.
This legislation directs the Secretary to work with the telehealth community, especially as far as services across State lines. We know that that is an issue. We want to expand the origination and consulting sites so that more of our underserved communities will have access to the best health care that the community has to offer.
I would like to brag a little bit, Mr. Chairman, because telehealth patients from small towns throughout my district in Missouri have been receiving specialist care or services from a variety of specialists, including mental health providers. I know that is certainly a hot-button issue for many here, without having to take available time, maybe, away for caring for a loved one or from work or for school or for other parental duties.
Right now there are 2,000 patients in Missouri that are cared for using Missouri's telehealth network. It is estimated over 40,000 radiological examinations have been performed. In fact, one example: a critical-access hospital in the small town of Macon, Missouri, unexpectedly lost the only radiologist in the area. There was not another specialist within that underserved area.
Fortunately, the University of Missouri stepped in to provide coverage during this 4-month period of time so this small community could have access to a qualified radiologist. Again, there are lots of good things in this bill. But telemedicine is one piece of it. I commend the chairwoman and I urge everyone to support it.
I thank the chair of the Health Subcommittee, on which I serve, for her bold leadership on this bill and improving health information technology in this country.
H.R. 4157 will launch the American healthcare system into full capacity to take advantage of the best technology. This will give all Americans better health care, more accessible medical records, and better quality of care.
It is a good bill of which I am proud to be an original cosponsor.
I would like to touch on the telemedicine provisions of the bill.
The Health Information Technology Promotion Act includes important provisions for the advancement of telehealth services--Requires the Secretary of HHS to take steps that expedite the provision of telehealth services across State lines by taking a closer look at State licensure issues; requires the Secretary to conduct two studies: (1) a study on the use of store and forward technology in the provision of telehealth services; and (2) a study on the coverage of telehealth services provided in home health agencies, county mental health clinics and other publicly funded mental health facilities.
Advancement in telecommunications now allows health care providers in small communities to access the resources available in the finest hospitals and academic institutions. Individuals in this country should receive the health care they need regardless of where they live. A person's address should not dictate the state of their health. Technologies such as interactive videoconferencing, the Internet and satellite are already systematically changing the face of our Nation's health care.
In 2000, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the telehealth provisions of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000, BIPA, would cost $150 million over 5 years. In June I asked CMS to provide me with information on how much the Federal Government has spent to date to get an idea of how close we are to CBO projections. I was astonished to find that since October 1, 2001 Medicare has only reimbursed for approximately $1.2 million total for telehealth services and originating site facility fees. This illustrates that the Federal Government has made a minor contribution compared to what we were expected to spend. And more needs to be done.
This legislation highlights the capabilities of telemedicine by directing the Secretary to work with the telehealth community to find solutions to the services across State lines issue, and expanding origination and consulting sites so more of our underserved communities will have access to the best health care this country has to offer.
I would also like to brag on how, because of telehealth, patients from small towns throughout my district are able to receive services from a variety of specialists, including mental health providers, without having to take valuable time away from work, school or parental duties.
Currently in Missouri, over 2,000 patients per year are cared for using the Missouri Telehealth Network and it is estimated that over 40,000 radiology exams have been performed. In fact, in my district, a Critical Access Hospital in the town of Macon unexpectedly lost its only radiologist, leaving the area without a specialist in this area. Fortunately, the University of Missouri stepped in to provide coverage through the telehealth network for a 4-month period until a new radiologist was hired. Without this option, Macon residents would have been forced to either commute or simply go without radiological care.
It is my hope that via this legislation, rural and underserved areas in my district and across the country will be able to find the same successes experienced with the Missouri Telehealth Network.
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