HIMSS promotes key policies on telehealth expansion, maternal health

HIMSS is calling on healthcare stakeholders to get involved in two initiatives to help expand access to quality care for underserved and at-risk populations.

As part of its Global Health Equity Week, HIMSS (parent organization of Healthcare IT News), is promoting two policy campaigns, at the federal and state level, respectively.

The first is focused on protecting access to care via the telehealth flexibilities that have enabled broad expansion and uptake of virtual care since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With those flexibilities due to sunset 151 days after the federal Public Health Emergency expires, HIMSS is calling on its members to contact their senators and representatives and urge them to extend coverage of telehealth services under Medicare until at least December 31, 2024.

Specifically, HIMSS is in support of the the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act of 2022, which was passed by the House of Representatives by a wide margin this past July but has stalled in the Senate.

Among other provisions, the bill would allow federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to continue providing telehealth services; enable beneficiaries to receive these services at any site, including the patient’s home, regardless of geographic location; expand the types of providers allowed to provide telehealth to occupational and physical therapists and speech-language pathologists; continue coverage for audio-only telehealth, and more.

“We have expanded access to care and kept people safe with telehealth services,” said Tom Leary, senior vice president and head of government relations at HIMSS. “Unless the Senate acts, we will be forced to go backward to pre-pandemic policies that ignore the innovative telehealth approaches that improve both patient safety and health equity.”

The second campaign is focused on improving and protecting maternal health, and HIMSS is calling on its members to contact their governors and state Medicaid directors and urge them to make better use of information and technology to reduce maternal mortality.

The U.S.  has the highest maternal mortality rate when compared with other countries with similar wealth. “Specifically, African American, Alaskan Native, and Indigenous American women are more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes,” according to HIMSS, which points to CDC data showing that more than 80% of pregnancy related deaths were preventable. Those risks to maternal health have only increased during the pandemic.

HIMSS is calling on the states to develop new strategies towards modernizing their health data systems to help combat the  maternal mortality crisis in this country and save lives.

The campaign seeks to “get states to enact comprehensive legislative and regulatory changes through state ‘Momnibus’ policies,” said Leary. “As the GAO and CDC have pointed out as recently as this week, maternal mortality is largely preventable. With coordinated policy changes, we can make a real difference for women and families.”

Global Health Equity Week, which continues through Friday, October 28, “is the perfect time for all of us to live the HIMSS vision and speak out in support of policy change that will realize the full health potential of every human, everywhere,” he said.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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