AHRQ Urged to Review More Studies, Broaden its Evaluation of Telemedicine’s Benefits

Jan. 27, 2016
The Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS) and the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) are urging the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to review international studies as well as individual studies in order to have more data to evaluate the benefits of telemedicine.

The Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS) and the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) are urging the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to review international studies as well as individual studies in order to have more data to evaluate the benefits of telemedicine.

In a letter, the two organizations provide written comments in response to AHRQ’s technical brief on telemedicine, Telehealth: An Evidence Map for Decisionmaking, issued in December. The draft report was intended to provide a framework and an evidence map of the available research regarding the impact of telehealth on health outcomes and healthcare utilization that can be used to inform policy and practice decisions.

The AHRQ study was requested by Senators Bill Nelson (R-Fla.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), who asked for a literature review on the value of telehealth and remote patient monitoring, particularly for the chronically ill, with a focus on expanding access to care and reducing costs.

The two organizations recommend that AHRQ review international studies that “when properly analyzed can aid US policymakers in understanding additional applications of new and novel technology.” And, the organizations also recommended that AHRQ consider data from other delivery systems such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

HIMSS and PCHA also urged the agency to expand and refine modality types in their review to include the term remote patient monitoring “to ensure that multiple modality types are not excluded as a result of an unintended bias based on evolving terms as noted in the background and definition section.”

“We ask AHRQ to expand outcomes to include patient engagement. Technologies associated with telehealth are becoming increasingly accessible to patients as consumers,” the organizations stated in the letter.

The organizations also noted that AHRQ’s decision to use only literature reviews rather than individual studies limits the inclusion of more recent data on remote patient monitoring usage. “We urge AHRQ to include individual studies with an emphasis on studies that do not restrict the research to only care delivery models that require doctor-patient interaction,” the letter states.

And, the organizations wrote, “Finally, we request that AHRQ broaden its evaluation to include telehealth encounters that go beyond isolated interventions constrained to direct encounters with patients. As noted in the technical brief, the size and scope of healthcare delivery in a virtual sense has expanded dramatically over recent years. In addition, many of these studies leverage telehealth and remote patient monitoring as ancillary to other supportive technologies to achieve outcomes, cost savings and to better engage patients.”

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