PAN Gathers Advocates and Experts to Discuss Telehealth and Parkinson's

On May 6, PAN brought together advocates, policy experts, and health providers to discuss the implications of using telehealth for people with Parkinson’s disease and the policy hurdles to making it available to more people.

Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, is the practice of using telecommunications to provide health care from a distance. The PAN event included a lively discussion between Krista Drobac, senior policy advisor at DLA Piper, LLP and executive director of the Alliance for Connected Care; Ray Dorsey, neurologist, telemedicine provider, and professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center; and Amy Comstock Rick, CEO of PAN.

Chris Czura, vice president of scientific affairs at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research; and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, senior policy advisor for DLA Piper, LLP also spoke of the importance of telehealth in the future of medicine.

“We are experiencing, in many respects, the greatest transformation in health that any of us have witnessed in our lifetimes,” said Sen. Daschle. “…Increasingly, [telehealth] is recognized as the critical transformational factor as we look at our ability to coordinate care and to improve quality outcomes across the board.”

The panel discussed current applications of telehealth within the Parkinson’s community and efforts to remove the policy barriers currently restricting the use and expansion of telehealth services. Telehealth has the potential to be an extremely useful tool in providing people with Parkinson’s greater access to specialists. The same is true for many other neurological or movement disorders.

Drobac emphasized the importance of bringing various stakeholders together including telecommunications companies, patient advocacy groups, and federal and state policy makers in order to remove the current policy hurdles that impede the use of telehealth. She also spoke about an effort by the Alliance for Connected Care to establish one standard definition for telehealth. Drobac said that there are currently about seven different definitions used on the federal level.

While Dorsey works specifically with people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders, he emphasized that there are many populations that would benefit such as people with mental illness, autism, or autoimmune diseases.

Dorsey also spoke to the issues of reimbursement and licensure as barriers to making telehealth widely available. Currently, physicians are not reimbursed for their time with a patient using telehealth in the same way they are reimbursed for an office visit. In addition, state license laws prevent doctors from seeing patients in states where doctors are not licensed. Getting licensed in multiple states can be a difficult and expensive endeavor.

Rick called on the people in the room to join PAN in supporting two key pieces of legislation that would begin to knock down one of the major barriers – licensure.

The TELEmedicine for MEDicare (TELE-MED) Act of 2013 (H.R. 3077) would allow doctors to see Medicare patients in different states via telemedicine without having to go through the arduous and expensive process of obtaining multiple state licenses. The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2013 (H.R. 2001) would remove current state licensure barriers to the practice of telemedicine within the Veterans Administration, allowing veterans to receive health care in their home, regardless of location.

For more information, visit www.parkinsonsaction.org/telemed. You may also read tweets about the event from PAN and other attendees here.

Watch the video below to view the whole event.

PAN thanks the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research for sponsoring this event.

If you have questions about telehealth, please contact Catherine Pugh, PAN’s government relations manager, at cpugh@parkinsonsaction.org or 202-638-4101 x101.

Date originally posted: May 9, 2014.