Expanding telehealth is ‘worthwhile for everybody’

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Friday, September 11, 2020

WASHINGTON – The Council for Quality Respiratory is throwing its support behind the CONNECT Act, a bill that would expand telehealth services for RTs, because it would also help to strengthen the referral process for oxygen therapy. 

“We hope our process of talking to folks in the administration and the House and Senate to support this act helps to get it pushed through,” said Crispin Teufel, chairman of the CQRC and CEO of Lincare. “DME benefits indirectly, but the expansion of telehealth services is worthwhile for everybody.” 

The bill, introduced by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, Doris Matsui, D-Calif., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and David Schweikert, R-Ariz., would expand telehealth services to allow RTs to provide services as part of CMS’s Innovation Center alternative payment models. The bill would also authorize CMS to waive geographic and other restrictions for respiratory care services provided in high-need, professional shortage areas.  

While the main reason for expanding telehealth is to ensure patients get seen by their physicians, the referral process for oxygen therapy depends on those visits happening, says Teufel. 

“Our patients typically have to re-qualify and have frequent encounters with the physician,” he said. “It’s sad the pandemic was necessary to show that providers’ ability to get patients discharged from the hospital or help them stay at home has been a large part of keeping a huge population of patients safe.” 

If the PHE has a silver lining, it’s how the value of home care has come to the forefront, says Kathy Lester, executive director of the CQRC. 

“There are a lot of interested folks in Congress and the administration who want to take the lessons learned from this and see if we can go forward more quickly than would have otherwise,” she said. “We want to be part of those conversations. We want to work with Congress and make sure the home respiratory patient is kept in mind as they work through this.” 

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