NASHVILLE, TENN. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, recently spoke to the American Telemedicine Association at the 2023 EDGE Policy Conference about the legislative initiatives around health data privacy and the importance of ensuring telemedicine services remain accessible.
Blackburn On Telehealth:
“In order to move forward with the permanence of telehealth, there are a few things we need to do. Number one, we have to revisit HIPAA and modernize HIPAA. We are long past the days of [a] paper chart in the fax machine [that] comes out at the referred doctors… Now in addition to this, what we have to do is look at online privacy. And this is an area where now Senator Peter Welch, and I started working when we were members of the House, and it was 2012. So, establishing an online data security bill doing things about breach notification, addressing transfer rights, and an online consumer privacy bill. All of these are preliminaries.”
Blackburn On AI:
“In Tennessee, we say we've got the good bad and the ugly when it comes to AI. Our logistics industry – they're doing great things with it. Auto manufacturers – great things with it. Our health care innovators are doing great things with predictive diagnosis and disease analysis and new applications in addressing patient needs. Our songwriters – not so much. They look at it and they say, ‘this is a fairly useful way to steal my name, my image, my likeness, and clone my voice.’ So, we are working through those issues, but addressing AI means that before you do it, you address online privacy. And you give people the ability to wall off their information. So, as you can see, turning the corner into 2024, we do have a very full plate.”
Blackburn On 2024 Healthcare Legislation:
“Now there are a couple of bills that we are pushing through. I have a Sustainable Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services in the Home Act, and [there is] good work being done on this in Tennessee. And during the pandemic, what we saw was great success in home based cardiac rehab services. During the pandemic, many of these started to grow, and the innovation took place. Some of our researchers and workers started to say, ‘well, if we're doing this, could we push it just a little bit further?’ What we did see is an increase in outcomes and reduced mortality rates by having at home cardiac services. So, the legislation is aiming to make these programs permanent and allowable to ensure quality care for those that have heart and lung disease.
“We also have the TREATS Act. Now this is very important for states like Tennessee because we rank second in the nation in drug overdose mortality. This bill preserves the ability for providers to prescribe opioid use disorder treatments through telehealth, a flexibility that really does improve patient retention when they are in a program and they are on a protocol.
“And we know that, from the research work that has been done, using telehealth for drug abuse treatment has been very successful. Using telehealth for behavior disorders has been very successful. And we want to make those services permanently accessible. I think it is an important step. Now, the innovation and treatment methods is another digital health frontier, Access to Prescription Digital Therapeutics Act is a dramatic change in care, and allowing for Medicare coverage of these innovative tools is something that is going to be right there at the top of our list…
“Now, what we are going to continue to focus on is making certain that CMS realizes Congress wants to move to permanence, that temporary rule making is not something that is going to solve our issues… A critical aspect of telehealth advancement is the use of this telehealth where a physician can deliver that care and also the use of it across state lines… One thing that the pandemic taught us is that quality health care and access to quality health care does not need to be restricted by a geographic boundary.”