President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Recommends Expanding Access to Telehealth and Broadband to Allow Older Americans to Stay at Home
Keeping People Healthy at Home Saves Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures, Report Says
March 25, 2016 12:11 PM
On March 15, 2016, the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report titled “Independence, Technology, and Connection in Older Age,” which includes recommendations for helping older Americans live independent and connected lives in their homes for as long as possible. The recommendations include ensuring older adults have broadband Internet access at home, as well as access to telehealth services and regular connection to caregivers. The report recognizes that the United States is “an aging society” and cited data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicating that 46 million Americans—about 15 percent of the total US population—were over the age of 65 in 2014, due to increasing life expectancy and healthier aging.
“With many Americans wishing to live in their homes and communities for as long as possible, technology such as prosthetics, wearable sensors, and other tools for daily living can make that possible,” said Christine Cassel and Ed Penhoet, members of PCAST and co-chairs of the PCAST Working Group on Independence, Technology, and Connection in Older Age.
The report states that many older adults would like to age in place and remain in the home and community that they have lived in for years. It cites an AARP survey estimating that almost 90 percent of older adults would like to stay in their homes for as long as possible. The report further states that, in addition to improving people’s quality of life, keeping people healthy in their homes can reduce Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.
Among its recommendations, the report states that there are additional steps the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should take to improve telehealth. “While there are legislative restrictions on how Medicare can cover telehealth,” the report states, “CMS can act by increasingly incorporating telehealth in Alternative Payment Models, demonstration projects, and Innovation Center models. The CMS Innovation Center has already included expanded access to telehealth in the Next Generation ACO model program and in the Bundled Payment for Care Improvement Initiative, and further action would be welcome. In addition to Medicare, CMS can increase the number of state Medicaid waivers that allow for more use of telehealth in Medicaid programs. Actions by these two large payers would have ripple effects and remove significant barriers.”
Additional PCAST recommendations include:
Federal actions to expand affordable access to broadband in the homes of seniors and to provide support for training.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should convene the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Governors Association to accelerate reciprocal state licensure policies. CMS should use the full capacity of the Innovation Center to advance payment policies that support innovation in telehealth.
HHS should work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to streamline and strengthen regulations and payment policies that govern home accessibility standards in order to promote uniform standards allowing efficient use and changes in technological support systems.
The full report is available here.