House bill would require national telehealth strategy from feds

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Two members of Congress have introduced legislation aimed at advancing telehealth through the development of a plan for adoption and coordination by federal agencies.

The National Telehealth Strategy and Data Advancement Act, sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), would promote telemedicine within the Department of Health and Human Services by shifting the Office for the Advancement for Telehealth (OAT) from the Health Resources and Services Administration to the Office of the Secretary.

In addition, among other provisions, the bill would:

  • Require the OAT to create a plan for a cohesive, efficient telehealth implementation at the federal level.
  • Improve telehealth research by standardizing the federal grant process and data reporting of grant recipients.
  • Provide federal governance and oversight of federal telehealth spending and ensure information sharing and collaboration across federal agencies.
  • Create a biennial report to Congress on federal investments in telehealth, assessing costs of and access to telehealth.

Last week, more than a dozen organizations—including the American Telemedicine Association and College of Healthcare Information Management Executives—sent a letter to Eshoo and Gianforte endorsing the National Telehealth Strategy and Data Advancement Act.

“Your legislation will create a telehealth coordinating body that would set federal funding priorities across departments, research data reporting standards with the focus on the implementation, execution, application of telehealth and the relationship between these characteristics and data-driven performance, and make these data publicly available,” according to the letter.

In addition, the organizations contend that the plan required by the bill “will generate evidence crucial to advancing reimbursement for these new technologies” and will “better focus federal dollars on generating evidence to support expanded reimbursement—and allow researchers and federal agencies to access data to build the evidence base."

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