English: U.S. President delivers the while sta...

The President laid out the agenda for his second administration in last night’s State of the Union address. Tucked among the many issues he spoke about included a short push for continued evolution of health care.  While his comments on this were brief, they were promising for the future of senior’s health.

our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

The shift is already occurring as more providers are forming or joining Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs. ACOs are a consortium of providers — physicians, hospitals, step down facilities, home care companies — whose payments are linked to achieving cost-effective quality care with optimal outcomes. ACOs have a financial incentive to help seniors age in place, maintain quality of life, and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

Another focus of the Affordable Care Act is e-health, which not only affects cost, but also promotes a more patient-centric approach. The shift to digital health records is already fostering increased efficiency. Providers share and exchange patient data, conduct virtual visits, and consult electronically.  Telehealth capabilities allow for virtual visits, patient transmission of real time information to clinicians such as glucose levels, blood pressure or weight. It gives clinicians valuable, longer-range data to analyze, making for more effective and targeted  patient care.

Fortunately, some legislators already “get it.”  I recently wrote about a proposed bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) that is winding its way through the House that authorizes Medicare payments for telehealth services identical to that of in-person care, and other legislative efforts to enable small businesses to get low-interest government loans for EHR-related technology investments.

It’s good to know that the president continues to push for rational, common sense approaches to keep seniors (and the rest of us seniors-in-waiting) healthy, out of the hospital, and stay at home.  Let’s hope Congress takes note of the President’s words, and turns them into real action.