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Legislators and Staff Pack WHA’s Telehealth Briefing at the State Capitol

July 23, 2019

More than 90 legislators and their staff packed the Joint Finance Hearing Room at the state Capitol on July 18 to learn more about telehealth from WHA and its members. The hearing was an opportunity for policymakers to get a firsthand look at the different telehealth offerings in Wisconsin, as well as current barriers to expanding it, and recommendations from WHA and its members to advance state telehealth policies.

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) kicked off the briefing by sharing her interest in telehealth, which stemmed from hearing from her constituents in Walworth County. She also discussed meeting with WHA to develop telehealth legislation she has been working on in partnership with WHA and her legislative colleagues, Rep. Deb Kolste (D-Janesville), and Senators Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Janet Bewley (D-Mason).

WHA Director of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter then gave an overview of WHA’s Telehealth Work Group, which has met a number of times over the last few years to identify barriers to telehealth and recommend policy options. This work group included more than 36 WHA members from all over Wisconsin, and also saw participation from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Medicaid staff.

Hoelter thanked the Legislature for their past work partnering with WHA to advance public policy reforms that have helped Wisconsin remain one of the highest quality states for health care in the country. He also highlighted a couple of WHA’s work group recommendations on allowing Medicaid to begin covering remote patient monitoring and provider-toprovider consultations, which were recently signed into law in the state budget.

Shana Kettunen, Director of Telemedicine for Hospital Sisters Health System Eastern Wisconsin Division, described their successful telestroke program that has improved outcomes for stroke victims in their service region. Kettunen also cited the requirement that behavioral health providers receive a telehealth certification before providing care as a burden that has slowed down their ability to offer important substance use and behavioral health services via telehealth.

Chris Meyer, Director of Virtual Care and Telehealth for Marshfield Clinic Health System, described their Direct to Consumer Telehealth tool – Care My Way. While this tool has been a great way to reach patients, it currently cannot be offered to Medicaid patients as Medicaid will not pay for care delivered to a patient’s home or other non-clinical setting.

UW Health’s telehealth leaders, Rachel Zorn, Simrit Singh, and Elsa Jacobson highlighted their successful teleophthalmology program, which has been shown to prevent blindness in patients while avoiding unnecessary medical costs. They are also interested in growing a program that brings medical care to patients’ homes, but face the same burden of lack of Medicaid reimbursement for in-home telehealth.

Jessica Easterday, Gundersen Health System’s Telemedicine Program Manager, described the evolution of telehealth when they began using it in 1994 through the new technology they use today. While telehealth has been a very successful tool to reach patients for Gundersen, they struggle with a very rural area that often has limited high-speed internet access. She advocated for more to be done to increase broadband access, which will help allow more patients to benefit from telehealth.

Overall, the briefing was a very successful event that helped explain to legislators and staff the need for legislation WHA is working on to help unlock telehealth’s true potential.

You can find a replay of the briefing in WHA’s Video Library. Contact Jon Hoelter for more information.

This story originally appeared in the July 23, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter