National Disability Forum: October 27, 2016

National Disability Forum

Thursday, October 27, 2016

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST

National Education Association

Washington, DC

Exploring Opportunities to Advance the Disability Program through Telehealth and Telemedicine

Background Information

SSA is committed to staying in step with changes in medicine, healthcare delivery, technology, and the workforce to advance the disability program. Telehealth and telemedicine are a new and rapidly changing field within medicine and healthcare delivery. “Telemedicine” refers to clinical services provided by interactive communication, most commonly a video, between a patient and a practitioner who are at different locations. “Telehealth” is a broader umbrella term encompassing a variety of ways to use video and other technology to enhance health care and education delivery. In addition to telemedicine (clinical services), it includes provider training and continuing medical education delivered by video or other technology.

SSA is interested in exploring the use of telemedicine and telehealth technology to better serve individuals with a disability, to help expedite the development and assessment of disability claims at all levels of adjudication, and to improve the overall administration of our programs. For example, telemedicine may offer a better way to obtain consultative services to serve individuals in rural or underserved areas. Telehealth may offer a way for us to increase our medical consultant capacity to review claims, and/or to serve as medical experts during hearing appeals. Telehealth may also offer enhanced ways to provide trainings and continuing medical education. We welcome input on the advantages, disadvantages, and considerations for using telemedicine and telehealth in the SSA disability programs for these and any other ways that may enhance the program. As always, we are interested in seeing the research base behind your comments and input. We are also interested in learning how others have used telehealth and/or telemedicine to advance the services they provide to individuals with a disability.

Below we offer some specific questions, but we welcome any comments that can help us keep in step with changes in medicine, healthcare delivery, and technology through the use of telemedicine and telehealth.

  • How can we use telemedicine and/or telehealth in the development of claims to better serve individuals with a disability? For example, is telemedicine useful for consultative examinations? Are there particular types of examinations or evaluations (such as psychological exams) that lend themselves to the use of telemedicine better than others? What has been the reaction of patients/claimants to the use of telemedicine, and do these reactions vary based on geographic area (rural vs. urban), educational level, or age, or other characteristics? Are there special considerations that we should be aware of?
  • How can telehealth help expedite the timely assessment of disability claims at all levels of adjudication? For example, how should we consider evidence of record obtained through a telemedicine interaction? Can telehealth be used to increase the medical and psychological capacity to review claims? Does telehealth offer the potential to increase or enhance the medical expertise during the appeals process or during a hearing?
  • How else might we use telemedicine and/or telehealth to improve the administration of our programs, and what factors should we consider? For example, what is the state of the relevant technology? How are other programs using telemedicine and telehealth to serve similar populations? Does telehealth offer enhanced opportunities for training and continuing medical education?

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