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Telemedicine Legislation Would Benefit Caregivers

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January 26, 2016 testimony by AARP Rhode Island volunteer Ruth Bucci in support of House Bill 7160, which would remove barriers to accessing appropriate healthcare for patients as well as serve as a useful tool for family caregivers helping loved ones stay in their homes.

 

 

H-7160 Telemedicine Coverage Act
House Corporations Committee

Chairman Kennedy and Members of the Committee:

My name is Ruth Bucci.  I am a volunteer for AARP. Thank you for allowing me to appear before you to express my support and the support of  AARP for the passage of the Telemedicine Coverage Act.

The main reason that I support the Telemedicine bill is because it may allow us to have easier assess to the medical help that we need while at the same time letting doctors dispense proper medical assistance, through the use of technology,  without leaving their location.

Today, more and more people are using technology to communicate with each other. We can see and talk to our friends and family no matter how far away so long as we have good technology to do it. Many of us have smart phones. Some of us may use Facetime or Skype.

Now AARP is supporting a bill to promote the use of technology in doctor-patient communications. The Telemedicine Coverage Act will allow doctors and patients to use technology, where appropriate, to see and talk to each other even though the patient is not in the doctor’s office. Telemedicine can be another tool that a doctor can use to help patients to stay healthy, recover from illness, or continue to live in the best way that is medically possible.

With telemedicine, the barrier of distance is diminished. Real time two-way electronic audiovisual communications between the doctor and the patient can occur over miles. They can observe each other, talk, ask questions, give explanations, listen, and gain understanding. The patient is spared the hazard, difficulty, and inconvenience of travel to the doctor’s office, when it is not needed. Doctors may also benefit by having immediate communication with the patient with technology.  Telemedicine facilitates the patient in getting medical attention and may allow a better quality of life.

Telemedicine holds the promise of allowing all of us to get help for ourselves and our loved ones in ways that we have not been able to in the past.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of AARP and myself today, and I encourage the House Corporations Committee to support H 7160, the Telemedicine Coverage Act.

Thank you.

 

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Written Testimony submitted by AARPRI Advocacy Director John DiTomasso

 

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee my name is John DiTomasso and I am an Associate State Director of Advocacy for the Rhode Island Office of AARP. On behalf of AARP Rhode Island and our 130,000 members in the state, AARP is pleased to testify in support of H 7160. If passed, this bill will remove barriers to accessing the appropriate health care for the patient and also serve as a useful tool for family caregivers that are helping their loved ones stay in their homes.

I not only work for AARP, I am also a caregiver that would like to share with you an example of how telemedicine can be very helpful to both patient and caregiver.  I am a caregiver for my 87 year old mother and I bring her regularly to a neurologist for onset dementia testing consisting of a series of questions that the physician asks my mother. There is no physical exam. To bring her there she has to use her walker to get to her stairway and use a chair lift to make it down to a doorway landing. There I place her in a wheelchair and bring her to the car. When I arrive at the medical office I place her back in the wheelchair and bring her in. When she leaves the office she has to go through the whole process again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for her if we could just have the exam done through an electronic audio visual system? This bill offers that potential for my mother and the many other Rhode Islanders that struggle each day get to their physicians office.

As for family caregiving, I am not alone. I’m sure there are many people in this room that have been involved in caregiving for a loved one or know someone that has.

In Rhode Island there are approximately 134,000 family caregivers providing $1.78 billion unpaid care for their loved ones.  Family caregiving is an issue that affects many of us. AARP believes that telemedicine can play a meaningful role in helping not only health care consumers, but also family caregivers who, in many instances are providing the bulk of care.

Access to health care is hampered even further by the severe winters that we experience in the northeast part of the country. Doctor’s appointments have to be cancelled and in many instances are rescheduled months away due to the physician’s busy schedule.

Ensuring insurance coverage for medical services provided through the use of telemedicine will provide and enhance access to care when barriers exist that prevent health care consumers access to qualified health care providers. But in addition, AARP believes that telemedicine holds the promise of many solutions to help individuals and their caregivers access health care and long term services and supports in new ways, to help keep individuals living independently in their homes and communities, and to make it easier for working family caregivers to care for their loved ones.

The number of care recipients is swelling – the oldest boomers are turning 69 this year. That means we’ll increasingly see more than one generation with major needs - baby boomers and their aging parents. We need technology to help us manage as a society in assisting aging populations live in dignity and health. Towards this end telemedicine can be a very useful tool.

On a technical note on page 2 line 25 the bill defines “originating site” and we are hopeful it is clear enough that that it is understood to include patient’s homes.

We appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of AARP today, and we encourage the House Corporations Committee to support H - 7160.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

John DiTomasso

Associate State Director, Advocacy

AARP Rhode Island

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