From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith:
Helping Patients – An Update
As you likely know, one of my priorities as your representative is advancing legislation that would help patients receive quality, affordable health care that meets that patient’s individual health care needs. Among my efforts to help patients are the Patient Choice Act (H.R. 1376), the Compassionate Freedom of Choice Act (H.R. 790), etc. More information on these proposals and others – including the Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures initiative – can be found on my website.
I am pleased to note I have recently introduced another bill which would help advance my goal of improving care for patients. This bill, the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act (H.R. 2799), expands access to stroke telemedicine (also called “telestroke”) treatment in Medicare by reducing the need for rehabilitation and nursing home stays. This change is also estimated by the American Heart Association to save approximately $119 million in Medicare spending annually.
Currently, Medicare only covers telestroke in the most rural, underserved areas. The FAST Act would change that, reimbursing for telestroke consultations under Medicare regardless of where the patient happens to be living.
Through telestroke, a patient having a stroke can gain access to specialists through the use of interactive videoconferencing, even if the hospital at which the patient is receiving treatment does not have a stroke neurologist available around the clock. It can expand the diagnoses of ischemic strokes, thus allowing patients to more quickly be treated with Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), a “magic, clot-busting drug” that helps dissolve blood clots and reverse disability if administered promptly. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a stroke and receiving treatment promptly are crucial when attempting to minimize the harmful impact of a stroke.
I was joined in introducing this important bill by Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH, a stroke survivor), Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Congressman David Scott (D-GA), Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS), and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA). The FAST Act is also supported by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as well as the American Academy of Neurology.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans and contributes greatly to long-term disability and dementia among survivors. Strokes take place when the brain’s blood supply is blocked (an ischemic stroke, which is the most common) or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures (a hemorrhagic stroke). There also are “mini-strokes” (transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs), in which blood flow to the brain is blocked only briefly.
At a 2001 event in Richmond, my then-colleague Virginia Delegate Bob Bloxom suddenly began having a significant stroke. Two doctor-delegates, John O’Bannon and George Broman, promptly rushed to his aid. Dr. O’Bannon, a neurologist, phoned for an ambulance, and informed the paramedics of Bob’s condition. Doctors were soon able to administer the tPA drug to Bob, after which he recovered rapidly.
To everyone’s astonishment Bob returned several days later to the Virginia House of Delegates, making remarks on the floor with no discernable impact to his speech or motor functions.
All things considered, Bob was fairly fortunate. Those who don’t have a hospital and/or stroke specialist within a few miles are currently less fortunate, as tPA is most effective if administered within the first three to four and a half hours after a stroke. tPA and telestroke ought to be more readily available to help improve patients’ chances of recovering from a stroke. The FAST Act will help.
Frankly, I'd be scared of "telemedicine" myself, but if it helps other people...