What if there were a Meaningful Use program for telemedicine?
Ryan Spaulding, director of telemedicine and telehealth at the University of Kansas Medical Center, posed that scenario during a public policy discussion at the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting this week.
He urged the organization to take such a proposal to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.
The industry lacks formal authority at the federal level such as that supporting electronic health records, he pointed out.
It has no roadmap or strategic plan.
"How can we take a little more of a structured approach to not just adding current telehealth into Meaningful Use, but how can we create almost our own Meaningful Use for telehealth?" Spaulding is quoted asking at Healthcare IT News.
He urged naming a national coordinator for telehealth, a federal standards panel and a policy panel similar to those for health IT.
He also suggested telehealth could benefit from a resource similar to the Regional Extension Centers set up around the country to help with EHR selection and implementation.
The 12 regional Telehealth Resource Centers already funded would be an ideal place to start, he said.
Now is the time to establish telemedicine as "integral" to care efficiency and quality improvements, particularly in conjunction with other information technologies like electronic and personal health records, Rashid L. Bashshur, director of telemedicine at the University of Michigan Health System, wrote in an editorial published this month in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health.
In a commentary American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous called the government a "lagging partner" for the telehealth industry and says that government policies have proven to be the biggest barriers to telehealth deployment for two decades.