MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker was on Capitol Hill this week to testify before Congress about telehealth and the success the program has had in Mississippi.
Senator Wicker, R-Miss., appeared before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday to discuss the promise of telehealth and to encourage the Committee to continue its progress on the "CHRONIC Care Act." The legislation includes many of the proposals inspired by Wicker's "CONNECT for Health Act," which would remove barriers to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries.
"Because we've made the effort in Mississippi and because we are a small state of rural towns, we have become a leader in telehealth and we've proven we can do it," Wicker told WDAM 7 on Friday after returning from Washington D.C.
Wicker said The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson has been a leader in telehealth for over a decade. The telehealth program gives residents in rural towns medical tablets, similar to an I-pad. The tablets monitor patient's daily medical conditions and symptoms. Wicker said the team at UMMC has been able "to increase access to quality care and cut costs by using services like remote patient monitoring and tele-emergency, reaching some of our state's most rural, vulnerable, and costly patients."
Senator Wicker said Mississippi has the fewest health providers per capita but the highest rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
He said one of the state's success stories is the Diabetes Telehealth Network. The partnership followed 100 chronically ill patients in the Mississippi Delta and throughout the course of the first year, zero of the 100 patients were admitted to the hospital.
Senator Wicker said telehealth can save money too. "The Mississippi Department of Medicaid found that if this remote monitoring program were extended to just 20 percent of Mississippi's diabetic Medicaid population, the state would save $189 million per year.
"If we take it statewide, which I hope we do, we can save millions and millions of taxpayer dollars and provide better care at the same time," Wicker said.
Wicker said he hopes Congress will continue to push the "CONNECT for Health Act," since the program works with Medicaid patients, Medicare is "behind the curve, limiting access for millions of seniors."