U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today joined a bipartisan group of senators in introducing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017. The bill would expand telehealth services through Medicare, improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers, and help cut costs for patients and providers. A similar version of the CONNECT for Health Act was introduced in the 114th Congress.
“In states like South Dakota, where rural communities are often a great distance from their urban counterparts, accessing quality health care can be a challenge,” said Thune. “Utilization of telehealth systems in smaller cities and towns would give rural South Dakotans greater peace of mind and save them time and money that would have otherwise been spent traveling to and from hospitals or clinics that are far from home. That’s why passing our CONNECT for Health Act is so important.”
Telehealth is the provision of health care services via telecommunications technologies, such as live video interactions and asynchronous medical data transfers, like “store-and-forward technologies.” Remote patient monitoring refers to personal medical data transmitted securely from an individual in one location via electronic communications technologies to a provider in a different location for the purposes of medical care.
According to studies, telehealth and remote patient monitoring have both been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction while reducing hospitalizations. The CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 is a bipartisan approach to increase the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring through Medicare.
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Build on the CONNECT for Health Act-inspired provisions in the CHRONIC Care Act, which expand the use of telehealth in accountable care organizations, home dialysis, for the evaluation of an acute stroke, and in Medicare Advantage;
- Expand the use of remote patient monitoring for certain patients with chronic conditions;
- Increase telehealth and remote patient monitoring services in community health centers and rural health clinics; Native American sites; and in global and bundled payments;
- Provide direct authority to the HHS secretary to lift existing restrictions on telehealth when certain quality and cost-effectiveness criteria are met; and
- Expand the use of tele-mental health.
In addition to Thune, the CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).
The CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 is supported by more than 50 organizations, including AARP, ACT | The App Association, Alliance for Connected Care, America’s Essential Hospitals, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, American Medical Association, American Society of Nephrology, American Telemedicine Association, American Well, Anthem, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, The ERISA Industry Committee, Hawaii Medical Service Association, Healthcare Leadership Council, HIMSS, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, National Association of Community Health Centers, Personal Connected Health Alliance, Qualcomm, Third Way, University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Telehealth, and the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth.