by Jordan Roberts
Former Director of Government Affairs, John Locke Foundation
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted to approve a Notice of Inquiry which would move forward a plan to launch a “Connected Care Pilot Program.” The program would allocate $100 million for new telehealth initiatives that would promote “connected care” for low-income and rural Americans, as well as veterans, who currently face barriers in access to high-quality health care. Telehealth programs that are designed to connect these at-risk populations have shown to improve health outcomes and increase access to care while reducing overall costs. Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and FCC member Brendan Carr recently wrote an op-ed touting the success of such a program administered by the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in the Senator’s home state:
The UMMC pilot program showed that remote patient monitoring improves outcomes and reduces costs. Indeed, participants saw a 1.7 percent reduction in A1C (an indicator of blood sugar level). That may not sound like a lot, but studies show that a reduction in A1C of just one percent has been known to reduce cardiovascular death by 45 percent. It should also be noted that none of the participants of the study were readmitted to a hospital or emergency room for diabetes during the first 3 months. Programs like remote patient monitoring could reduce costly readmission rates to the emergency room and decrease Medicare penalties to rural hospitals.
Even accounting for program costs, the 100-person Mississippi pilot resulted in $678,000 in annual savings by reducing hospital readmissions. If just 20 percent of the state’s diabetic population were to enroll in this type of remote patient monitoring, Medicaid savings for Mississippi could be $189 million per year.
Nationwide, over 60 clinical specialties are benefiting from remote patient monitoring, including maternal and fetal care for high-risk pregnancies, pediatric cardiology, opioid dependency, as well as cancer, transplant, and stroke patients.
American consumers currently face enormously high healthcare costs. States should follow Mississippi’s lead and take advantage of telehealth programs that offer creative, cost-effective ways to deliver high-quality health care. The FCC’s “Connected Care Pilot Program” is one example of a telemedicine program that can extend health care to the populations that might benefit from it the most.