Home Dialysis Central (HDC) Article by Beth Witten

Home Dialysis Central (HDC) blog post for HDC

Proposed Legislation Expands Option For Home Clinic Visits By Telehealth

This blog post was made by Beth Witten, MSW, ACSW, LSCSW on January 5th, 2017.

Proposed Legislation Expands Option for Home Clinic Visits by Telehealth

What Is This Bill?

On December 6, 2016, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced in the Senate S. 3504, the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2016.1 Starting in 2018, the bill proposes to make it possible for home dialysis patients to use telehealth for some clinic visits—from the comfort of their homes or from a dialysis clinic—as long as they see a doctor face-to-face once every 3 months.

What Is Telehealth?

Medicare says that Telehealth is “services, like office visits and consultations that are provided using an interactive 2-way telecommunications system (with real-time audio and video) by a doctor or certain other health care provider who isn’t at your location.”2

Why Does This Matter?

Now, home patients must visit their clinics once a month, where they can be seen by the nurse, social worker, dietitian, and doctor. Many home dialysis patients have lives outside of dialysis…that’s one of the reasons why they chose to do dialysis at home vs. coming to a clinic! Because they have jobs, families, and other obligations, and some live far away from their home clinics, some patients don’t keep all their clinic appointments.

Medicare does not yet allow a patient’s home or a dialysis clinic to be an “originating site” for telehealth, and Medicare only covers telehealth from certain provider types, such as a doctor’s office, hospital, or skilled nursing facility. At this time, only those in rural areas or outside metropolitan areas can receive telehealth under Medicare.

What Can You Do?

This bill was introduced at the end of the 114th session of Congress. Bills that were not passed during a congressional session do not carry over. They can only be heard and passed if they are re-introduced. The 115th session of Congress starts on January 3, 2017 and ends 2 years later. Call or write your senator and representative about how much a bill like this would help you or your patients. Find out how to contact your senator or representative here. You can find tips for writing your federal legislator here.

  1. S. 3504, Section 102, pages 3-6. https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/s3504/BILLS-114s3504is.pdf. Accessed December 20, 2016.
  2. Medicare Telehealth. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/telehealth.html. Accessed December 20, 2016