Telemedicine bill could get House vote this week

The House this week is expected to vote on a bill that promotes telemedicine and was unanimously passed by the Senate last week.

The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act, or ECHO Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), asks the HHS to study whether telemedicine could promote collaborative clinical learning and disseminate best practices among healthcare professionals, primarily those in medically underserved areas.

The Act had broad support in the provider community.

The HHS would study “technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models” used in clinical settings that address mental health and substance abuse, chronic diseases, prenatal and pediatric care, pain management and palliative care.

The study must also address technology's potential impact on healthcare workforce issues, such as specialty care shortages, primary care workforce recruitment and retention and “support for livelong learning.”

In addition, the HHS also should look at the effects of technology on public health as well as delivery of health services for rural and medically underserved populations and Native Americans.

The report should list any HHS-funded care models that have been using the technology in the past five years. And it should make recommendations on integrating into broader care systems those models as appropriate. It also charges HHS with making recommendations on which technology-enhanced care models might be used in continuing medical education and lifelong learning in conjunction with academic medical centers and other provider organizations.

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