DHIT Legislative Update | June 2019

Legislative Happy Hour Calls for More Disruption in Healthcare

Wednesday, June 19th brought together digital health stakeholders and key members of the General Assembly for our second Legislative Happy Hour. Representatives Holly Grange, Gale Adcock and Graig Meyer each gave a response to the question,  “What would you like the health landscape in your district to look like in 2025?”

Each legislator demonstrated their passion for their constituents and knowledge of the key issues facing healthcare, bringing their particular expertise to bear as they spoke. Rep. Holly Grange is committed to increasing access to quality healthcare in her district in Wilmington, which has seen rapid growth, and is excited about the possibilities afforded by telemedicine. As a nurse practitioner working for a company overseeing healthcare through onsite clinics for more than 14,000 employees, Rep. Gale Adcock is excited about personalized medicine through pharmacogenetics, and the integration of behavioral health into all aspects of clinical care. Rep. Graig Meyer believes that healthcare should not interrupt people’s lives, and is looking forward to more disruptive healthcare that meets the consumer where they are and is able to deliver diagnosis, treatments and interventions in accordance with the needs and preferences of the individual. A substantive discussion about the future of healthcare in NC and the role that digital health can play ensued.

We would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to the Representatives for their time and to everyone who joined us for this event. It is important for policymakers to see the breadth of interest and activity in digital health here in the Triangle and across the state.

DHIT Hosts Its First Digital Health Lunch & Learn for GA Members

Hot on the heels of our Happy Hour, Thursday June 20th saw DHIT host its first policy/legislative themed lunch and learn at Caffé Luna in Raleigh. Attending or sending representation were House members Hardister, Ager, Bumgardner, Ross, Hunt, Queen and Russell, and Senators Chaudhuri and Van Duyn. DHIT co-founder Michael Levy focused his talk on three central themes: “What is Digital Health?” “Why is North Carolina poised to become a global leader in this arena?” And “What role does DHIT play in transforming healthcare?”

There was a good deal of back and forth about these issues following the talk. Legislators expressed thanks and support for DHIT’s efforts and the event was deemed a great success. It is through events like these that policymakers get to know more about digital health and about DHIT and we will continue to host policy/legislative themed events as we move forward.

DHIT Legislation Under Consideration

As noted in our last update, we are actively pursuing legislation designed to ignite the Digital Health economy here in North Carolina. The bill would:

“Study how North Carolina can provide for improved personal health and wellness, reduce healthcare costs, improve population health outcomes and chronic disease management, expand healthcare access, increase workforce productivity and enhance childhood development by promoting investment in a digital health ecosystem characterized by open innovation, commercialization, employment and economic development through the expansion of the digital health economy.”

The legislation remains under consideration by members of the General Assembly. Given the politics surrounding this year’s budget it is not at all clear if or when this proposal will finally see the light of day. We continue to have discussions between DHIT representatives and Senate members. It is important to remember that should we not be successful this session, our policy-themed happy hours and other events go a long way toward garnering support for when we return during the next session. Much can happen in budget negotiations and we will keep working tirelessly to get our provision included in this year’s budget.

Other Bills of Interest

Other than DHIT’s proposal, no legislation directly supportive of a “Digital Health Ecosystem” has been introduced at the General Assembly. Two bills, however are worthy of note:

House Bill 721: “Increase Access to Telehealth Services” would direct the department of Health and Human Services to make changes to the Medicaid and Health Choice policies designed to increase the use of telemedicine by requiring health benefit plan telehealth coverage. Bill history and language can be found at: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/H721. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Saine, Lambeth, Dobson and Jones.

House Bill 555: “Modernize Medicaid Telemedicine Policies” would make changes to Medicaid and Health Choice Telemedicine and Telepsychiatry policies to facilitate increased access to services, utilize the latest technology and align with what are considered best practices. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Dobson, White, Saine and Lambeth and can be found at: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/H555

Our Ongoing Work

Obtaining public funding for new and innovative ideas is never easy. Every day, policymakers hear how this or that project or technology will “transform” the world and save billions of dollars. Our challenge is to rise above this “noise” and stand out as bonified leaders in the precision medicine and digital health economy. We have made great progress over the last year in educating policymakers at all levels about DHIT’s vision for the future of healthcare, but there is still much work to be done. Events like our legislative Happy Hour and our Lunch & Learn series are important parts of that effort. We will continue to work toward significant public funding that will allow organizations like DHIT and its partners to make North Carolina a global leader in this field. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.