Law Introduced to Invest in Tele-Health Technology

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Lawmakers including Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawai‘i have introduced legislation to improve rural health care services using tele-conferencing technology.

The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act of 2019 (ECHO 2019 Act)—introduced by Senators Schatz, Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—would connect health care professionals with continuing education resources to improve their quality of care for underserved populations.

The ECHO system uses interactive videoconferencing to connect education specialists with primary care providers in rural communities. The ECHO 2019 Act builds on the findings of the 2016 ECHO Act, a law authored by Schatz that examined the effectiveness of ECHO models and provided a report to Congress. The 2016 report found that ECHO consistently creates positive outcomes and recommended that it be expanded.

The 2019 legislation would create a program to provide grants and technical assistance to further develop and evaluate ECHO and similar models. The grants would provide equipment, support for health care providers using ECHO, training and data tracking to study the impact of the system.

“Technology has the potential to transform the way we train doctors and deliver health care,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our bill will provide new federal funding that will help connect primary care providers in medically underserved areas with specialists at academic hubs, making it easier for medical professionals to access the continuing education they need to provide high-quality health care to the people who need it most.”

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