Dr. Ateev Mehrotra was asked to testify at the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health hearing entitled Telehealth to Digital Medicine: How 21st Century Technology Can Benefit Patients on May 1, 2014.
Dr. Mehrotra’s core research interest is the impact of healthcare delivery innovations on improving quality, decreasing costs, and improving access. He has examined new ways of delivering primary or urgent care using nurses and physician assistants at retail clinics. He has also studied care provided by eVisits and telephone-based visits.
In his testimony, Dr. Mehrotra explained that “telehealth means receiving care in a manner other than the traditional face-to-face visit,” and he emphasized that telehealth options outside a patient-provider videoconference may have the greatest potential to improve quality, decrease costs, and improve access. Dr. Mehrotra cited several examples of telehealth including patients using the internet and smart phones to receive tests results and communicate with their physicians, text message to patients diagnosed with hypertension to determine whether the messages help improve patients’ blood pressure, and computer kiosks that help diagnose patients.
Although Dr. Mehrotra believes in the potential of telehealth, he did give some examples of the potential negative effects an increase of telehealth utilization could have. A study conducted by Dr. Mehrotra showed that for some conditions it appeared that physicians providing care via eVisits were to use a cautionary approach and are more likely to prescribe antibiotics. This cautionary approach could lead to an increased antibiotic resistance. Another concern was that telemedicine could lead to increased utilization.
Dr. Mehrotra’s testimony emphasized the complexity of the issues surrounding telehealth implementation and funding. Although telemedicine has the potential to increase costs via increased healthcare utilization, Dr. Mehrotra suggested that, with sufficient oversight, telemedicine can help achieve the three aims of improving quality, improving access and decreasing costs.