U.S. Senate passes telemedicine bill

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A bill requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to study technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models and the ability of those models to improve patient care and provider education has passed the U.S. Senate.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, the ECHO Act (S. 2873) from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) aims to require HHS to study the technology in collaboration with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Such models connect specialists to primary care providers through videoconferencing to facilitate case-based learning, dissemination of best practices, and evaluation of outcomes.

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed the ECHO Act (S. 2873), which is potentially the first stand-alone telemedicine bill to receive a vote on the Senate floor. The updated bill no longer requires a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study and revises definitions and specifics of the HHS study.

The legislation aims to expand the University of New Mexico’s Project ECHO, which employs telemedicine to train rural providers to manage complex diseases.

A similar bill has been presented in the U.S. House.