STAR Act Would Award Grants for E-Consult and Related Telehealth Services

Original Source: Center for Connected Health Policy

 

In late November, HR 5190, the Specialty Treatment to Access and Referrals Act of 2019 (STAR Act) was introduced by Representative Harder.  The bill seeks to provide assistance for health centers and rural health clinics to implement electronic provider consultation and related telehealth services by establishing a grant program to help healthcare providers develop and start up an E-Consult program.

An E-Consult, according to the bill’s language, is “synchronous or asynchronous, consultative, health care provider-to-health care provider communications that occur within a shared certified EHR technology or secure Internet-based platform and are primarily intended to provide specialty expertise to treating clinicians.”

Related telehealth services, is defined as “telehealth services arising out of or incident to an E–Consult service, such as laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging, or a subsequent interaction between a medical specialist and a patient.”

As proposed, the grant program would run from 2021 through 2025 and would award grants not to exceed $200,000 to health centers or clinic facilities ($5,000,000 for health center controlled networks) that demonstrate that they lack sufficient access to medical specialty care and have not already implemented an E-Consult or related telehealth services program.  Money from the grant could be used to pay for software, infrastructure and equipment, and costs associated with integrating an EHR technology with the system, among other items.

The objective of the pilot is to demonstrate E-Consults ability to do the following:

  • “Improvement in patient access to specialty care.
  • Reduction in specialty care patient wait times.
  • Reduction in patient specialty referrals.
  • Reduction in patient miles traveled for specialty care consultations.
  • Increased support for primary care providers as demonstrated by job satisfaction measures.
  • Increased patient satisfaction as demonstrated by quality surveys.
  • Health care cost savings.”

Not later than 180 days after the last pilot project has been completed, the Secretary would be required to submit a report to Congress on the project’s successes and failures to meet its objectives, as well as a number of other areas of interest, such as issues related to privacy and security and any unintended adverse results.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services began reimbursing for interprofessional internet consultations in Calendar Year 2019, which also allows for consultations between healthcare professionals performed via communications technology such as the telephone or internet, and includes CPT codes 99446-99449, 99451 and 99452.

 

For further information on HR 5190, seeCCHP’s factsheet on the bill, or see the bill’s full text.