As a member of the Massachusetts Telemedicine Coalition, Atrius Health recently submitted testimony in support of SB 549 and HB578, “An Act Advancing and Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services,” which is being heard before the Joint Committee on Financial Services.
Although there are several other telemedicine bills before the Legislature that have the same goals of advancing and expanding access to telemedicine services in Massachusetts, we believe SB549 and HB578 are the most comprehensive bills that will help eliminate antiquated requirements for providing care in the 21st century.
Atrius Health supports passage of SB549 and HB578 as we believe these companion bills will cultivate innovation among health care providers in the state to make care more cost-effective; improve patient access; and reduce unnecessary office visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations.
Over the past year, Atrius Health has embarked on a number of innovative programs for our patients including video visits, store and forward asynchronous tele-dermatology, e-consults, and telemonitoring. Two telemedicine pilots were recently conducted within our behavioral health and internal medicine departments, both of which showed promising results.
Our behavioral health telemedicine pilot was conducted over a six-month period and focused on established patients with Atrius Health therapists who were undergoing therapy for mild mood disorders. We offered these patients the option of participating in therapy over live video using a HIPAA-compliant platform. The outcome was high patient and provider satisfaction, a reduction in time off work and travel time for patients, and a decrease in “no shows” for office visits (6% versus 12% for office therapy).
A second pilot was conducted over a three-month period for internal medicine patients seeking care for ten simple medical conditions utilizing synchronous two-way video visits. Like the behavioral health pilot, patient and provider satisfaction scores were high and preliminary data showed a cost-avoidance (e.g., video visits replaced an office visit or a visit to an urgent care center).
The proposed legislation accomplishes several important things that are important to health care providers:
Our testimony noted that there have been many studies to support the benefits of telemedicine and cited a report conducted by the state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) in October of 2016. The report found that telemedicine will improve the overall delivery of care and will have no effect on commercial health insurance premiums as stated, “the bill’s incremental impact will be too small to measure with any precision.”
Atrius Health strongly supports quick passage of this legislation. We believe that in order to fully realize the potential of Chapter 224 and its stated goals of reducing healthcare costs, it is critical to remove any barriers to innovation in order to increase the use of telemedicine.