On May 7 th, four congressmen introduced the Better Respiration through Expanded Access to Tele-Health (BREATHE) Act into the US House of Representatives. The BEATHE Act proposes a three-year pilot program allowing qualified respiratory therapists to use telemedicine platforms to deliver healthcare services to select Medicare recipients with COPD.
Reps. TJ Cox, Mike Thompson, Mike Kelly, and Earl "Buddy" Carter introduced the bill stressing the growing necessity for the healthcare industry, and for federal government agencies, to embrace new health-technologies, such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring to improve healthcare access and expand healthcare services across the country.
The three-year pilot program will allow respiratory therapists (RTs) to provide patients enrolled in the program with disease-specific education and disease management training via telehealth. Telehealth services, such as daily surveys and vital sign monitoring, would enable RTs to receive continual updates on patient status and prevent an exacerbation of symptoms. Additionally, telehealth video conferencing would enable RTs to engage with patients in virtual appointments and provide demonstrations on inhaler usage among other training.
In 2018, telehealth services and reimbursement expanded significantly through the Center for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) regulatory changes, as well as the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. These recent regulatory and legislative changes has introduced the question of which healthcare professionals are qualified to receive reimbursement for remote patient monitoring and telehealth services they perform. The BREATHE act would build on this movement, demonstrating the value of utilizing Respiratory Therapists in treating and educating patients through telehealth.
The BREATHE Act has received support from multiple healthcare and health-tech advocacy organization including the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC). The bill is being hailed by supporters as a crucial step forward for telehealth and for patient care for the 11 million US citizens living with COPD.