By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

0516-news-LeeSchwamm_WP

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Neurologist Lee Schwamm, M.D., testified Tuesday at a Senate Finance Committee hearing about how telemedicine in the acute treatment of stroke can greatly improve health outcomes.

During his testimony, Schwamm urged the committee to pass the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017.

“Even in urban or suburban settings, where approximately 94 percent of strokes occur, patients may experience delays to diagnosis and treatment,” Schwamm told senators.

Schwamm is a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and vice chairman of neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he is the director of Acute Stroke Services.

Schwamm is a longtime volunteer for the American Heart Association, which supports the bill. The bill includes provisions that would strengthen and improve care coordination for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Expanding reimbursement for telestroke is a key provision in the bill.

The current Medicare policy, which limits coverage for telestroke services to rural hospitals, has hampered sufficient telestroke coverage, Schwamm said.

He noted that removing the rural restriction would be a “game-changing” step toward “easing the burden” of stroke for the nearly 800,000 Americans who suffer a stroke each year.

The bill also calls for expanding the use of telemedicine in Medicare Advantage plans and accountable care organizations, and Medicare Advantage plans would have more flexibility to vary benefit structures based on chronic conditions. The bill also includes funding for studies on synchronizing medications and obesity drugs.

Schwamm concluded his testimony by saying telestroke is a common-sense, cost-effective step to increase the use of effective acute stroke treatments, reduce stroke-related disability and save healthcare dollars.

After the Finance Committee marks up the CHRONIC Care Act on Thursday, the bill will head to the Senate floor. A similar bill is under consideration by the House of Representatives.