In last week’s Senate subcommittee hearings on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Universal Broadband Fund and Rural Healthcare (RHC) program, the University of Virginia’s Center for Telehealth chalked up some substantial results confirming the effectiveness of telemedicine in rural areas. In advocating further funding for an expansion of the program, they presented the following:
- A 40 percent reduction in 30-day same cause hospital readmissions for patients with heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, stroke, and joint replacement
- It enabled over 65,000 live interactive patient consultations and follow-up visits with high definition video within 60 different clinical subspecialties
- Their home remote monitoring program included over 3,000 patients and screened more than 2,500 patients with diabetes for retinopathy
- UVA delivered 100,000 teleradiology consults and provider-to-provider consults supported by the Epic EHR.
The UVA analysis also quantified travel savings in areas where medical and hospital care can be hours away–17 million miles of rural travel including 200,000 miles by high-risk pregnant mothers. For these mothers, NICU hospital days for the infants born to these patients were reduced by 39 percent compared to control patients and patient no-shows by 62 percent.
Karen Rheuban, MD, director and co-founder of the UVA Telehealth Center, recommended that the FCC continue to fund the RHC’s $400 million budget, with the caveat of exploring additional federal revenues should that budget be reduced. She also recommended that Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services be increased, the addition of wireless technologies, and including emergency providers and community paramedics in RHC funding. mHealth Intelligence, Subcommittee information and hearing video (archived webcast)