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Newhouse Advances Rural Patient Healthcare

June 17, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ) introduced the Rural Remote Monitoring Patient Act. This legislation would create a pilot grant program within the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to facilitate the use of remote patient monitoring technology in rural areas. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA).

“Our health system must meet people where they are, and that starts with empowering them to self-manage at home,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Remote monitoring technology provides rural Americans personalized, constant attention to ensure they get the care they need to manage their chronic conditions. This legislation will give our rural hospitals, clinics, and community health centers in Central Washington and beyond the tools they need to increase access to quality, effective healthcare.”

“Families in rural Arizona must often travel hundreds of miles to access even basic health care,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “Investing in remote patient monitoring technology in rural areas will allow more patients to remain comfortably at home with their support systems while staying in contact with the doctors and medical staff that monitor their care.”

“Rural Louisianians often have to rely on technology to manage their health remotely. Our bill would improve access to this technology and help health care providers better serve their patients,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I’m grateful to partner with Congressman Newhouse on this important initiative to help rural Americans.”

The following Central Washington healthcare providers issued statements of support for the Rural Remote Monitoring Patient Act:

Alan Fisher, CEO, and Dr. Jennifer Thill, CMO of Mid-Valley Hospital: “Despite having three hospitals and several medical clinics throughout the county, there continue to be significant gaps in care in our vast and rural region where people are bound by high poverty, extreme weather conditions, and lack of public transportation. Noting limitations to high-speed broadband we agree with facilitating the use of low frequency remote patient monitoring technology that is an FDA-cleared, and cellular-enabled to operate at lower frequency levels to facilitate adoption in rural areas without broadband access. This will enhance the capability of providing these services and other specialty services to rural residents and avoiding critical delays in care by enhancing telehealth access. We thank Congressman Newhouse for his foresight and leadership in assisting with providing innovative rural health care opportunities for all citizens.” Click here to read Mid-Valley’s letter of support for the bill.

Theresa Sullivan, CEO of Samaritan Healthcare: “As rural healthcare facilities, we have limited resources to be able to make the investment in such important technologies that can improve access to care, improve quality of care, and at the same time, can reduce health care costs. This proposed pilot project could assist rural facilities to deploy this technology. Ensuring reimbursement for these services is also essential for sustainability. Thank you, Representative Newhouse, for your ongoing support, innovation, and leadership on behalf of rural healthcare and striving to ensure access to care for those we serve.” Click here to read Samaritan Healthcare’s letter of support for the bill.

Brandon Isaacs, Program Director of the Central Washington Family Medicine Residency Program: "Locally as a program director for a rural training family medicine residency, I see indirectly the effects on the rural population when access to care is unavailable.  Nationally we also see that healthcare outcomes are directly related to one’s zip code and rural communities see the brunt of significantly poorer outcomes.  The Increasing Rural Telehealth Act offers a needed solution in helping to resolve that deficit by increasing access to much needed healthcare.  It is physically impossible and financially non-sustainable to keep needed healthcare providers in smaller communities and this act offers a solution whereby patients with chronic illnesses can still get healthcare interventions through telehealth management opportunities.  Patients in these communities most often cannot travel the needed distances to reach direct care particularly if they have challenging illnesses.  It is even more of a problem when weather dictates that travel is impossible.  In response patients often do not access care and thus they have poorer outcomes.  Through telehealth, providers can offer needed access for patients who would not otherwise get the care they need.  It increases efficiency, reduces financial burdens, and improves access." Click here to read Central Washington Family Medicine Residency Program's letter of support for the bill.

Peter Rutherford, CEO of Confluence Health: "The pandemic we have lived through over the last 16 months has shown the potential for, and power of, the use of non-face-to-face patient care and the benefits of remote patient monitoring in improving healthcare outcomes. Remote patient monitoring helps patients with better management of chronic health conditions, as well as episodic conditions like pregnancy in a more timely and cost-effective manner. Remote monitoring does require current equipment as well as training of patients and healthcare staff so that maximal benefit can be realized. Remote patient monitoring as part of a healthcare delivery effort can and does breakdown many geographic, financial, and social barriers to equitable healthcare for healthcare for rural Americans." Click here to read Confluence Health's letter of support for the bill.

Click here to read the full text of the bill.

Background:

Remote patient monitoring (RPM), uses connected digital technologies and mobile medical devices to collect patient-generated health data from individuals in one location and electronically transmit that information securely to a care team in a different location for assessment and intervention. This type of service allows for ongoing monitoring and management of chronic and acute conditions.

To capture data, RPM can employ a host of wired or wireless peripheral measurement devices such as blood pressure cuffs, glucometers, scales, implantables, biosensors, and pulse oximetry, as well as sensors that collect data passively (e.g., beacons in a home that can transmit data on movement and specific activity/inactivity). Some RPM may also allow for real-time video interactions between the patient and provider.

RPM allows our health system to meet people where they are, beginning by empowering them to self-manage at home, and then use physicians, to treat those who need it.

  • Entities eligible for grants must:
    • Be located in a rural area;
    • Use remote patient monitoring technology that is an FDA-cleared, and cellular-enabled to operate at lower frequency levels to facilitate adoption in rural areas without broadband access.
  • Grantees may use federal funds for salaries, equipment, and operating or other costs, including the cost of—
  • developing and delivering remote patient monitoring services that enhance access to community-based health care services in rural areas, frontier communities, or medically underserved areas, or for medically underserved populations;
  • developing and acquiring, through lease or purchase, computer hardware and software, audio and video equipment, computer network equipment, interactive equipment, data terminal equipment, and other equipment that furthers the objectives of the telehealth network grant program;
  • Providing for transmission of medical data, and maintenance of equipment.
  • The bill authorizes $50 million to be used to carry out this program.

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