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Congressman Ryan Costello

Representing the 6th District of Pennsylvania

Utilizing technology to improve healthcare

October 24, 2016
In The News

Tablets, laptops, cell phones, and watches. Integrated technology is a central part of our lives. In addition to watching our local news, we now receive health alerts on our phones. We fill prescriptions with the click of a mouse. We even keep tabs on critical wellness statistics, such as the number of steps we walk. In the age of Fitbit and Health Apps, we find ourselves not just with an abundance of data and ways to access information instantly, but also an opportunity to upgrade our healthcare system.

As a Member of Congress, I believe we should seize this opportunity and advance policies that integrate everyday technology to improve health outcomes. The more we are able to effectively utilize this data, the better our healthcare system will deliver efficient and accessible care. Congress can help by enabling collaboration between the technology and healthcare sectors. Such collaboration will ensure more precise care for patients, immediate access for patients outside of a healthcare setting, and greater protections for your personal medical information.

Harnessing technological breakthroughs to deliver better, more personalized care for patients and access to quality treatments should be common practice – and Congress can do its part to rollback burdensome regulations and allow for these opportunities to come to fruition. Healthcare and technology leaders are utilizing cutting-edge technologies, and Congress can encourage the use of existing methods that have proven to be successful for patients in the private sector. We must update policies of the past to allow for these important partnerships to develop in the first place. That is why I cosponsored and voted in favor of legislation called the 21st Century Cures Act. In addition to its primary goal of expediting the discovery, development, and delivery of new treatments for diseases with no known cure, this groundbreaking initiative encourages greater stakeholder collaboration and removes the regulatory walls that have thwarted constructive interaction and data sharing among patients, researchers, providers, and innovators.

Innovation in healthcare is also improving the administrative side of care, which directly affects patients. Some hospitals are using programs that alert nurses when a room is available for a new patient, or when a patient needs to be seen by a doctor. In this way, technology is streamlining care within hospitals, but there are also ways technology is positively influencing patients who are not at the hospital. I recently visited WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, Pennsylvania to learn firsthand how telehealth tools allow doctors to make important decisions and treat stroke patients faster. With these tools, patients have an increased chance of recovering quickly and, as a result, can leave the hospital earlier with a cheaper bill.

The ability to access patients immediately is another way technology can improve the delivery of healthcare. In Congress, I support two bills that would use “telehealth” technology to enable remote medical access in the Medicare program. The Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act would, as the name suggests, increase patient access to stroke telehealth technology services. The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act would more broadly allow for the use of telehealth and remote patient services. Both the FAST Act and CONNECT for Health Act aim to increase a patient’s access to treatment when time is of the essence and will be especially helpful to seniors and Medicare beneficiaries.

Finally, technology has provided for advances in creating ways to ensure your personal information is secure. With nearly 55 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, the Medicare Common Access Card Act would help protect seniors’ from identity theft by using modern “smart card” fraud-resistant technology on Medicare ID cards. Medicare fraud costs taxpayers nearly $60 billion each year, and it is estimated that the use of smart cards could have helped prevent fraud schemes in more than 1 in 5 cases. A simple, technological update can transform Medicare’s payment system to enhance the delivery of these essential services.

Technology has proven to be an effective partner with healthcare, yet continues to advance at a rapid pace. Congress should take advantage of this partnership and promote policies that allow innovation in this intersection to provide better, more efficient, and quality healthcare to all Americans.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, of West Goshen