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OCHIN Urges Congressional Support for STAR Act to Expand Rural Telehealth Capacity, Lowering Health Care Costs and Increasing Underserved Communities' Access to Quality Care

The forward-looking Specialty Treatment Access and Referrals (STAR) Act would establish a grant program for health care providers to invest in telehealth and provide services like eConsults with specialists at patients' local clinics

PORTLAND, Ore., Nov. 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Health information technology leader OCHIN today urged Members of Congress to support the bipartisan Specialty Treatment Access and Referrals (STAR) Act, H.R. 5190, which would help meet the critical telehealth needs of underserved patients across the country.

OCHIN (PRNewsfoto/OCHIN)

Currently, patients in rural and remote areas face significant financial burdens to accessing specialty care. They often have to book specialty care months in advance, drive long distances, miss a full day of work or school, or pay for extra child care just to get to a specialist. Given the many obstacles to care, some patients choose to forego or are unable to see specialists altogether. Telehealth allows these patients to get specialty care in their communities in a fraction of the time through services like eConsults with specialists, but many health care providers cannot yet support this technology.

The STAR Act would help solve that problem by creating a grant program to fund telehealth investments in geographically isolated parts of the nation. Health care providers would be able to use this grant funding to purchase the infrastructure, technology, and training they need in order to provide patients with virtual specialty care. In turn, provider networks would grow beyond metro areas into underserved communities, saving many patients unnecessary and costly trips to visit specialists and providing access to specialists for the first time for those patients who currently are without any specialty care.

"We can fix today's problems by investing in tomorrow's technology," said Abby Sears, CEO of OCHIN. "The STAR Act's investments in telehealth expansion would help solve today's problem of patients wasting precious time and money and give them access to specialists they may not otherwise see. We call for swift passage of the bipartisan STAR Act to jump-start the critical process of expanding telehealth to underserved communities and lay the foundation for tomorrow's telemedicine innovations. As a health IT leader and innovator, OCHIN stands ready to help bring effective telehealth expansion to all communities, lowering patient costs and improving access to high-quality care."

Earlier this year, the Congressional Telehealth Caucus, together with a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, published a request for information (RFI) asking for guidance in crafting "comprehensive telehealth legislation for the 116th Congress." OCHIN answered this request by providing detailed comments on possible legislative actions that could encourage eConsults as a way to deliver high-quality specialty care to more patients. U.S. Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) then used those recommendations to build out the STAR Act, seeking to further advance the adoption of eConsult and save patients time and money. 

The STAR Act was announced on October 24, 2019, led by Democratic Representative Harder and Republican Representatives Don Young (AK-At Large) and Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) and introduced today with Representatives Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02) and Greg Steube (FL-17) as additional cosponsors.

About OCHIN
OCHIN is dedicated to creating a healthier future in every community. A national nonprofit health IT organization with a 20-year history, OCHIN brings advanced technology, research, and services to underserved areas, both urban and rural. A driving force for health equity, OCHIN empowers community health organizations serving lower-income areas so that they can deliver the highest quality care to their patients. Learn more at www.ochin.org.

Contact: Jennifer Stoll, 503.943.5787, stollj@ochin.org

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SOURCE OCHIN