AHCA Submits Feedback on CONNECT Act

Advocacy; Medicare


AHCA, as part of a coalition of long term and post-acute care (LTPAC) provider advocates, submitted a response letter​ to a request for feedback from the sponsors of the CONNECT for Health Act, Senator Brian Schatz and Representative Mike Thompson. The bill, first introduced in 2021, aims to promote higher quality of care, increased access to care, and reduced spending in Medicare through the expansion of telehealth services. The sponsors sought feedback from stakeholders prior to updating the legislation for reintroduction.

The coalition letter thanked the sponsors for introducing legislation to improve access to telehealth to safeguard the nation’s most vulnerable beneficiaries, including those residing in LTPAC settings. The coalition also voiced appreciation for the opportunity to flag additional gaps in technology adoption that exist in long-term and post-acute (LTPAC) settings that have not been adequately addressed at the federal level to date. Closing these gaps are foundational to support improved access to telehealth.   

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted both the benefits of improved telehealth access as well as the current gaps in capabilities between physician practices and hospitals as compared to LTPAC providers including SNF. As stated in the letter: 

“…inequitable access to and use of interoperable electronic health records (EHRs) capable of ingesting and sharing telehealth data, and electronic clinical surveillance technology (ECST) persists across the continuum with serious implications for patient care. The root causes of these challenges can be traced back to the exclusion of funding for LTPAC providers under the Health Information Technology for Economic Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.”

The letter also emphasizes the importance for the CONNECT Act to align telehealth access policy improvements with health information technology (HIT) improvements across the health care continuum. Specifically, the coalition emphasized:

"The undersigned groups believe that federal financial support is crucial to ensure nationwide interoperability of HIT capable of integrating telehealth data as well as data exchange and sharing across the care continuum, including technological functionality to improve quality of care, patient safety, and infection control during this pandemic and beyond. Interoperable HIT technology is foundational and a key enabler of data collection, reporting and new innovative care models." 

The coalition letter recommends two specific concepts to be included in the CONNECT Act provisions so that telehealth information can be successfully integrated with HIT technology:

  • Authorize funding for LTPAC providers to adopt interoperable HIT with a focus on patient care and safety, including infection control and prevention.

  • ​​​Direct funding to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to ensure proper bidirectional interoperability between acute care (e.g., hospitals and physicians), LTPAC providers and other ancillary providers (e.g., therapy, pharmacy, etc.).