The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021 has been reintroduced to Congress. The massive telehealth bill would expand access to services, support health care providers and beneficiaries in utilizing it, enhance oversight, and gather more data on the impact. Lawmakers hope that the rise in telehealth use during the pandemic will give the bill the final push it needs, as it was first introduced in 2016.

So, will the fourth time be the charm for the CONNECT for Health Act? Who can say? No matter how this specific act pans out, however, healthcare providers will need to be ready for the oncoming surge in demand for telehealth services. This article covers the changes proposed in the CONNECT Act and how organizations can prepare their healthcare IT systems to meet today’s telehealth demands. 

Healthcare IT Trends—Telehealth Already On the Rise

Telehealth visits skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts predict that surge is here to stay. Studies reveal 83% of patients expect to use telemedicine after the pandemic resolves.

Many people prefer virtual care due to the convenience. It’s also vital for seniors and those living in remote or underserved communities. But telemedicine was actually on the rise before the pandemic pushed it into the spotlight. Patient adoption at the beginning of 2020 was up 33% over the previous year, and the market is expected to reach $185.6 billion by 2026.

Details in the CONNECT Act

The CONNECT Act contains several measures focused on expanding access to and coverage of telehealth, including:  

  • Permanently removing all geographic restrictions on telehealth and expanding the list of originating sites to include the home and other sites
  • Allowing federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHCs) to provide telehealth services beyond the pandemic
  • Giving the Health and Human Services Secretary the authority to waive telehealth restrictions, including during public health emergencies
  • Mandating studies of how telehealth has been used during the pandemic and the effectiveness of telehealth waivers 
  • Encouraging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center to test more payment models that include telehealth

EHR and EMR Integration—The Key to Successful Telehealth 

As a number of providers learned in the shift to virtual care during the pandemic, the healthcare integration space is full of challenges for IT teams. One of the most significant issues organizations faced (and will continue to face) was interoperability. 

Far too many healthcare providers are still dependent on disparate technologies, and these separate systems have trouble communicating information between them. In turn, these disconnects make it more difficult for providers and their patients to access relevant health information, especially when it comes to the telehealth environment. But things don’t have to be this way.

By integrating electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR), you can remove the need for staff to operate out of multiple systems, allowing your employees to work in one single platform while data flows seamlessly and securely behind the scenes. 

Achieving (Tele)healthcare Interoperability 

Implementing and integrating virtual care may seem daunting. However, with the proper planning and partners, you can successfully meet the requirements of changing telehealth legislation and increased patient demand. 

Our senior-level healthcare interoperability consulting team can help you prepare for this significant industry change, or if your needs lie more in the realm of in-person care. We understand the complex challenges with healthcare IT and can guide you on best practices for platform and system integrations. 

Contact us today to learn more and get started.