The Time is Right to Move Telemedicine Forward in Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Financial Services, chaired by Sen. Jim Welch (D-West Springfield) and Rep. James Murphy (D-Weymouth), will hold a hearing regarding legislation promoted by more than 30 healthcare provider, consumer, technology, business and telecommunications organizations to expand access to telemedicine services in Massachusetts.

Telemedicine is a tool that healthcare providers, payers, patients, and employers can use to improve access to care for patients, improve health outcomes for chronic illnesses, and reduce costs associated with seeking in-person medical visits with healthcare providers. Telemedicine allows all patients (regardless of whether they live in rural or urban areas) convenient access to all levels of healthcare services (including but not limited to primary care providers, specialists, and behavioral health clinicians).

By streamlining provider evaluations of patients suffering from chronic (and expensive) diseases such as asthma, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and hypertension, telemedicine has been shown to improve outcomes. Telemedicine also has been shown to help reduce hospital readmissions, lengths of stay, and emergency room visits.
“Expanding access, strengthening the essential link between physicians and their patients, and reducing costs – these are all elements of the well-crafted bill before the committee,” said MHA’s President & CEO Steve Walsh. “The time is right to move telemedicine forward in Massachusetts and, in doing so, improve the patient experience for the commonwealth’s residents.”

Telemedicine continues to be a priority this legislative session as Governor Charlie Baker, in his inaugural address in January, announced support for it. Last session, both the House and Senate were on record in support of provisions to advance and expand telemedicine services.  The tMED coalition (Massachusetts Telemedicine Coalition) convened by MHA is looking to build upon that support as both branches contemplate health care reform bills this session.