Legislation aims to expand rural access to health care services

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WASHINGTON (CBS19 NEWS) -- U.S. Senator Tim Kaine is one of a group of senators, led by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawai'i, which has introduced a bill to increase access to health care services in rural areas.

It's called the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act of 2019, which calls for expanded use of technology-based collaborative learning and capacity building models, which connect specialists with other health care professionals through the use of technology.

According to a release, this new bill would build on the 2016 ECHO Act that required the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to look into ECHO models and deliver a report to Congress on findings.

"We have an opportunity to expand access to health care for Americans with the help of technology," said Kaine. "This bill is about connecting rural and underserved areas in Virginia and across the nation with specialty care so we can better help those with substance abuse disorders, chronic diseases, and other complex health conditions."

The release says an ECHO model is a type of medical education program that uses interactive videoconferencing to link specialist teams with primary care providers in rural areas.

This kind of technology has been shown to address gaps in health care, and the report that resulted from the 2016 law found the model consistently showed positive effects. That report also recommended expanding what is known about the effectiveness of the model.

The new bill would create a program to provide grants and technical assistance to further develop and evaluate this model and others like it.

Grants could be used for equipment to support the use and expansion of the models through the secure exchange of electronic health information, support health care providers that provide services under such a model, instructional programming and training, and information collection and evaluation to study the impact of such treatment models.



 
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