Legislation could expand the nation’s telehealth infrastructure

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Legislation proposed in the House of Representatives last week is designed to enable patients and physicians to electronically connect with specialty providers.

The ability to link providers in other locations is expected to create a greater telehealth infrastructure for the nation’s healthcare industry.

Rep. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) is sponsoring the Specialty Treatment Access and Referrals Act, also known as the STAR ACT, which if enacted would provide a grant program for creating a larger telehealth infrastructure and expanded adoption of electronic consultations to enable patients and providers to connect electronically with specialty providers in other locations.

Also See: MGMA asks lawmakers to offer laws to expand telehealth access

OCHIN, which leads one of the largest health information networks in the country serving more than 500 organizations, is a strong supporter of the proposed bill.

“I stand behind legislation that helps to advance virtual care with the added technical and financial support to make it reality,” says Vanetta Abdellatif, CEO at the Multnomah County Community Health Center in Oregon and OCHIN’s board chair. “Telehealth and eConsult services are critical for reaching our hardest to reach patients in rural and medically underserved communities.”

“Health centers like ours need financial and technical help to use these tools and ensure we aren’t leaving our patients behind,” she adds.

The STAR Act would create a program to help providers establish the information-sharing and connectivity infrastructure necessary to provide virtual care programs such as telehealth.

“We know the promise of innovative technology for our patients and providers, and we can begin to realize it through legislation that advances funding and technical support through partners that understand health centers,” says Kim Schwartz, CEO at Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center, an OCHIN member in North Carolina. “I strongly support telehealth and eConsult models for our patients who deserve the very best in care.”

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