Further to our report in October on the introduction of the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act (“Veterans eHealth & Telemedicine”, 10 October 2015), Sen. Joni Ernst’s website reports that Sen. Ernst was the first witness to testify in front of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday (19 November 2015) about the proposed legislation.
“The VA has been practicing telemedicine since 2001, and they are largely cited as leaders and innovators in the field. Their efforts in telemedicine have saved money and veterans’ time by eliminating often an hour or more long drives to the VA, and reducing bed days at the VA” Ernst is reported to have said.
“For example: According to the VA, in Fiscal Year 2014, telehealth reduced bed days of care by 54%, reduced hospital admissions by 32%, and saved $34 in travel savings per consultation. Our legislation is straightforward, commonsense, and builds upon this work that the VA is already doing in telemedicine. It allows VA doctors to conduct telemedicine across state lines for patients in their homes—something they’re already able to do within state lines.
“Unfortunately, current law allows doctors to call patients at their homes if they are in the same state, but prevents them from doing so if their veteran patient lives across state lines. VA doctors wishing to treat patients via telehealth across state lines must have the patient drive to a federal facility.
“This is the case even though there’s no special licensing requirement for VA doctors to practice in different states.”
The Committee chair, Johnny Isakson, is reported to have said that the proposed legislation does address a critical need and the committee wants to move forward as soon as it can. “It’s a great suggestion that really helps to solve a problem in the most economical way, but also benefit mostly our veterans which is why we’re here to begin with.” Isakson is reported to have said.