The Importance of Telehealth for the TS Community
Telehealth is one of the priority public policy issues for the TAA. For patients with Tourette Syndrome (TS) and Tic Disorders, it can be difficult to find specialists and many drive hours or travel lengthy distances for physician visits. This is especially true in rural areas. The ability to conduct medical appointments/evaluations through a computer or electronic platform via telehealth could reduce leave from work and travel costs. For example, TS patients using approved anti-psychotic medications are often driving long distances for relatively quick appointments for medication check-ups which could likely be done via telehealth.
Additionally, TS and Tic Disorder patients sometimes do not exhibit their tic symptoms in the physician’s office. Telemedicine would enable TS patients to bring the device to a location where their tics are more representative of their daily experience. Tic severity can vary based on the environment including at home or in public places. This flexibility would give the provider the opportunity to see the tics of their patients and also engage with the patient when the symptoms occur. Therefore, the increased availability and coverage of telehealth is an important issue for our community.
On December 31, the TAA submitted comments on the Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Medicaid Fee-For-Service, and Medicaid Managed Care Programs for Years 2020 and 2021 proposed rule. These comments support the expansion of telehealth coverage for Medicare Advantage patients and provide context on its importance to the TS and Tic Disorder community. While TS Medicare Advantage patients are only a small subsect of TS patients, private insurers and in this instance, broader Medicare, often look toward Medicare policy as they develop their own coverage.
We will continue to discuss the importance of telehealth for our community during the TAA’s National Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2019. This is a day where the TS and Tic Disorder community covers Capitol Hill in a sea of teal to inform their Members of Congress and Senators on the need to support key public policy priorities such as the TAA-CDC Tourette Health and Education Program (THEP), National Institutes of Health research on TS and Tic Disorders, access to care and treatment, and telehealth. TAA’s THEP grant is up for renewal this year, so it is even more important to ensure continued funding and support for the CDC TS Program. The grant provides funds for the TAA to conduct workshops and seminars across the country to educate doctors, teachers, allied professionals and the public on Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders. The grant also funds other key education and awareness initiatives, such as online support groups and development of educational materials.
We hope you will strongly consider attending this important TAA National Advocacy Day to discuss all these important priority issues. Please find the link to register for National Advocacy Day here. We look forward to seeing you in Washington DC on March 5!