I have to say…The Role of Telehealth in an Evolving Health Care Environment Workshop, hosted by the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC on August 8-9, 2012, was one of the better telehealth-focused conferences or meetings I have attended in a while. It was exciting to have the Institute of Medicine commit their time to improve their understanding of where and how telehealth is currently playing a role in patient care. The agenda was well-balanced, sharing information on various applications, policy issues and concerns, as well as current and expected challenges. We heard from many who are currently providing telehealth services and the positive effects they were experiencing. But it was also good to hear from some of the folks who aren’t necessarily that excited about or support the expanding telehealth opportunities. Only by understanding their concerns, those of us in the telehealth field can work to better address these issues and, in the longer-term, improve the overall provision of telehealth-related services.
As I understand it, the IOM is considering conducting a full study as a follow-up to this workshop. I hope this happens, I am anxious to see their results!
This afternoon, the NRHA recognized Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson as a Rural Health Hero. Unfortunately, Senator Nelson is planning to retire at the end of his current term. We will certainly miss him as a rural health advocate.
Today the 23rd Annual Rural Health Policy Institute kicked off today in Washington, DC. We heard an overview from Secretary Sebelius and from HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield. (Who NRHA President, Lance Keilers, described as rural health’s BFF!)
The speaker from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, Dr. Nancy Nielsen, shared a connection from the President’s State of the Union speech… “Technology makes some jobs more efficient…and other jobs obsolete.” It directly referrenced manufacturing…but can easily apply to healthcare as well. It will be important for us all to prepare for the personnel needs and changes that HIT brings.
Another concern she raised was that medical expenses are the/a main cause of personal bankruptcy. We need to continue to provide care in a more cost-effective manner. It is my thought that telemedicine/telehealth plays a very important role in accomplishing this goal. She shared that, on average, the income for a family of four increased $23,000 over the past decade…and that all but $85 of that increase has gone to pay for healthcare. This was a startling statistic!
If Dr. Nielsen is an indication of the quality of speakers at this meeting, it will certainly be an interesting few days!