Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) www.schatz.senate.gov and Orrin (R-Utah) www.hatch.senate.gov were happy to see the “Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes” (ECHO) legislation pass in the Senate by a vote of 97-0. The ECHO Act is a bipartisan and innovative response to connect primary care providers who practice in rural and underserved areas.
Essentially the legislation seeks to establish Project ECHO as a national model for times when telehealth is used in rural areas. The ECHO Act also aims to integrate the Project ECHO model into health systems across the country.
As Senator Schatz stated, “Technology is changing the way medical professionals connect with each other and their patients. The legislation will capitalize on technology and give health professionals in hard-to-reach areas the specialized training they need and help them reach more patients.”
The legislation specifically requires:
- HHS Secretary in collaboration with HRSA to prioritize analysis of the model and the model’s impact on provider capacity, workforce issues, and the effects on quality care
- Preparation of a GAO report on opportunities to increase the adoption of the ECHO model and the efficiencies and potential cost savings that could result from such models
- HHS Secretary to submit a report to Congress on the findings of the GAO and HHS data
- Information to be submitted on HHS funding for such models and how to integrate the models into current funding streams and then into innovative grant proposals
Senator Hatch understands how important the ECHO Act will be for the State of Utah. As he said, “Under the existing Project ECHO programs medical experts at the University of Utah use video conferencing to train healthcare professionals who are hundreds sometimes even thousands of miles away. As we work to improve telehealth, models in the ECHO Act will enable telementorship and provider education to occur.”