WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Doug Jones (D-AL) today introduced legislation that directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to inventory telehealth programs across the country to learn how telehealth can be used more effectively in future health emergencies.

“Telehealth has been instrumental in connecting patients and health care professionals during Covid-19. It saves lives, allows doctors to spend more time with patients, and allows access to care for those who normally could not access. This bill examines what’s worked across the country so we can more effectively respond to future health emergencies,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“Tele-health has been especially valuable during this pandemic. It can help prevent exposure and spread of the virus while providing patients with care from their homes," said Smith. "As we continue to respond to the pandemic—and prepare for future public health emergencies—we should be actively working to improve our nation's tele-health infrastructure and make sure it’s accessible by all Americans.” 

“The revolution of telemedicine has provided a lifeline for millions of Americans in rural areas, including thousands of Alaskans,” said Sullivan. “The benefits of telehealth services, which empower patients to receive care in their homes rather than traveling great distances, have only become more pronounced in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing orders. With this legislation, we have the opportunity to build on existing telehealth efforts in Alaska and across the nation to make sure patient-centered care is accessible to everyone, no matter where they live.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the benefits of telemedicine for our country’s patients, providers and health care systems so that folks can stay healthy and safe and receive the care they need from their homes. This bill will help us continue to build our telehealth infrastructure so we can ensure that patients have access to these services, both during this pandemic and beyond,” Jones said.

In a recurring report to be performed every five years, this legislation directs HHS to:

  • conduct an inventory of telehealth initiatives in existence, including their capacity to handle increased volume during the response to a public health emergency;
  • identify methods to expand and interconnect regional health information networks and state and regional broadband networks;
  • evaluate ways to prepare for, monitor, respond rapidly to or manage the events of a public health emergency through the enhanced use of telehealth technologies;
  • promote greater coordination among existing federal interagency telehealth and health information technology initiatives; and
  • make recommendations related to updates on the use of telehealth in public health emergencies in Federal and State public health preparedness plans and any actions taken to implement such recommendations.

View bill text here.

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