Until January 2019, Medicare beneficiaries requiring maintenance dialysis therapy were eligible for telehealth services only if the originating site was located in a rural area and the patient was situated in an authorized facility. Free-standing dialysis facilities and the patient's home were clearly restricted sites. Beginning in 2019, new opportunities are available for home dialysis patients in the United States to engage in telehealth; these include existing waivers within End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Seamless Care Organizations (ESCOs) participating in the Comprehensive ESRD Care demonstration project and, more broadly, for most prevalent home dialysis patients based on legislation within the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act. Under this act, Medicare will pay for a monthly comprehensive telehealth encounter with the patient that originates from his or her home or a dialysis unit without geographic restrictions. The home dialysis patient has the sole power to choose the telehealth option, which may occur twice over a 3-month cycle and cannot occur during the first 3 months of home dialysis therapy. With studies suggesting that effective use of remote monitoring and telehealth encounters may improve patient satisfaction and outcomes while reducing the cost of care, increased use of telehealth has the potential to improve patient-centered care for home dialysis patients. In this perspective, we review the legislative changes, regulatory requirements, and technical and operational challenges for conducting telehealth encounters for home dialysis patients.
Keywords: Telehealth; United States; distant-site practitioner; end-stage renal disease (ESRD); home hemodialysis; legislation; patient-centered care; peritoneal dialysis (PD); regulatory requirements; remote monitoring; review; technology in medicine; telemedicine.
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