6 Things Physicians Should Know About the CONNECT for Health Act

Telehealth has defined healthcare provision, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. While vaccine rollout is gaining momentum and patients feel safer to return to in-person care, there is still a general feeling among patients that virtual care should be the order of the day. Attesting to this fact, a recent survey by the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) indicates that 50 percent of the respondents aged between 18 and 56 preferred to see their primary care through a video in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Respondents also felt that virtual consultations save time as patients do not have to commute to a physical location for in-person care. This situation prompted the introduction of CONNECT for Health Act. Several issues are surrounding the Act that health care providers ought to know. Read on for more insights on the Act. 

When Was the Act Introduced?

The 116th Congress (2019-2020) introduced the CONNECT for Health Act, Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies, in the senate on the 30th day of October 2019. The ardent support by the majority to have primary care via video heralded Senator Shatz (D-Hawaii) to introduce the CONNECT Act in the senate. Schatz emphasized that telehealth had worked well during the pandemic and, therefore, it was there to stay. He also reiterated that the CONNECT Act comprehensive bill would make it relatively more accessible for more people to safely and conveniently get the care they need regardless of where they live.

Why Has the Act Attracted a Lot of Interest in 2021?

Though the legislators had introduced it in the past congressional sessions, lessons already learned from COVID-19 Public Health Emergency have played a significant role in the latest iteration of the CONNECT for Health Act. The newly introduced version points out the Public Health Emergency as vividly demonstrating telehealth benefits of bringing down the risk of infection for patients and medical care providers. Though the legislators are yet to vote the bill into law, the provisions enshrined in the Act appear in other legislation that has seen the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) adopt them.  

Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiated campaigns to optimize telehealth services during the pandemic when appropriate and available. To this end, the CONNECT for Health Act aims at safeguarding access by Medicare beneficiaries to telehealth even after the COVID-19 public emergency ends. This initiative will protect the seniors from the telehealth cliff.

Which Organizations Support the Act?

The CONNECT Act enjoys tremendous backing of several Medicare organizations.

  • Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretarial authority is at the forefront in advocating for waiver of specific requirements related to payment of telehealth services, provided the quality of care is not adversely affected. Other conditions attached to the waiver call for its reassessment within a period of at least every three years to enhance the sustenance of the quality of care.
  • The American Telemedicine Association, led by the CEO, Ann Mond Johnson, is advocating for the health and safety of Medicare beneficiaries and ease of the overburdened healthcare system.  
  • The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) has added its voice and gave Medicare Advantage plans for greater flexibility to cover telehealth.
  • Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) calls for the provision of Medicare additional tools necessary to better access telehealth services.

Other organizations include American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Healthcare Finance News and the Personal Connected Health Alliance. 

Is There Any Bipartisan Support for the Act?

A bipartisan group comprising U.S. senators has reintroduced the CONNECT for Health Act of 2021. This bill has the backing of the following senators: Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), and Reps. David Schweikert (R-Arizona), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Mike Thompson (D- California), Doris Matsui (D-California), and Peter Welch (D-Vermont). The legislation, which 50 senators sponsored, aimed to permanently remove geographic restrictions on telehealth and see, among other provisions, the expansion of originating sites.

Which Measures Does the Bill Contain?

The CONNECT Act embodies several provisions in the provision of health services:

  • They are expanding the originating sites to extend to homes and other areas.
  • To allow Health and Human Services (HHS) secretarial authority to waive particular requirements associated with payment of telehealth services, as long as it does not negatively impact the quality of care. The waivers have to be reevaluated within every three years to ensure that care quality remains unaffected.
  • To permanently remove geographic requirements attached to telehealth.
  • To waive telehealth requirements in cases of public health emergencies. 
  • To use telehealth services for hospice recertification to allow for Medicare hospice benefits.
  • To provide for an audit of $3 million, investigation and other telehealth services oversight. 
  • To do intensive research to get more insights into how to utilize telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To put in place a geographic requirement to exempt genuine beneficiaries of mental health services.

Will the Act Help Doctors Increase Care Quality?

CONNECT for Health Act would assist health care providers in transition to the aims of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and Merit-based Incentive System (MIPS) by the use of telehealth remote patient monitoring. This incentive would facilitate telehealth and use patient monitoring for alternative payment models. 

If successfully implemented, CONNECT for Health Act’s findings conclude that health care providers can provide safe, high-quality, and effective health care services via telehealth. Essentially, telehealth can help with shortages of health care personnel, aid structured specialty consultations, and eliminate the barriers to the utilization of telehealth in the Medicare program. 

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There is a lot of tedious note-taking when it comes to telemedicine documentation. As a physician, you can attest that completing clinic notes while seeing many patients can be draining. Our Chartnote solution seeks to simplify telehealth documentation, enabling you to have more meaningful interactions with your patients and saving you time to spend with family and loved ones.  Learn how Chartnote can help you be more efficient with your medical documentation. Finally, be sure to get in touch with us for more information about our other solutions. 

How is telehealth transforming your practice? Do you think expanding access to telehealth will improve patient care? Feel free to commenting below.

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Posted on: July 6, 2021, by :

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