STAR Act Legislation Introduced to Support Telehealth and E-Consult Services

December 2019 ~

On November 20, the Specialty Treatment to Access and Referrals Act of 2019 (STAR Act/HR 5190) was introduced. The STAR Act is intended to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide assistance for health centers and rural health clinics to implement electronic provider consultation and related telemedicine services.

If finalized, the STAR Act would establish a grant program to assist healthcare providers to develop and implement a “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,” known as an E-Consult program.

HR 5190 would allow the Secretary to award up to $12,000,000 total in grants to eligible health center controlled networks, health centers and rural health clinics to implement and test the effectiveness of E-Consult services and related telehealth services furnished at such networks, centers, and clinics.

As seen in the bill’s text, the pilot project seeks to address the following goals:

  • “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.”

Under the bill, health centers or clinic facilities that have not already implemented an E-Consult or related telehealth services program and can demonstrate a lack sufficient access to medical specialty care would be awarded grants for a term of no more than 5 years, and not exceeding $200,000 for each center or clinic facility location, or in the case it is awarded to an eligible health center controlled network, it cannot exceed $5,000,000.

These funds are intended to cover the costs for software, infrastructure and equipment, expenses associated with integrating an EHR technology with the system, including:

  • “Conducting assessments of a participating facility’s infrastructure (such as broadband, equipment and software), clinical objectives, and staffing plans.
  • Developing and assisting in the execution of equipment and software procurement, defining clinical objectives, developing adequate staffing plans, and implementing E-Consult services and related telehealth services program plan.
  • Training participating facility staff to properly utilize technology and implement programs.
  • Providing clinical workflow training to support program implementation.
  • Providing integrated certified EHR technology capabilities to support live video (where applicable) and E–Consult services.
  • Integrating the facility with live E–Consult service support providers and networks that meet the patient goals of the network, center, or clinic.
  • Procuring appropriate information technology and undertaking minor alterations of physical space.
  • Carrying out the pilot.”

No later than 180 days after the last pilot project has been completed, the Secretary would be required to submit a report to Congress that evaluates the project’s successes and failures to meet its objectives, effectiveness of consultations provided by Medical Specialists, issues related to maintaining the privacy of personal health information, ensuring cybersecurity, and other information security issues, and any unintended or adverse results from utilizing E–Consult services.

The grant program is tentatively scheduled to run from fiscal year (FY) 2021 through FY 2025.

Source(s): Center for Connected Health Policy; Ochin; mHealthIntelligence; Becker’s Hospital Review;