The latest effort to promote telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries gained traction Wednesday with the introduction of a telemedicine bill specific to skilled nursing facilities.

A bipartisan group of representatives introduced the Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalization (RUSH) Act Wednesday. The bill would allow qualified physician practices to provide consultations to nursing homes via video in the hopes of reducing unnecessary hospitalizations or emergency room visits.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services notes that about 45% of hospital admissions from skilled nursing facilities could have been avoided, if telehealth care was available. It also says that 19% of hospital transfers originate from SNFs. Those transfers can unneccessarily expose seniors to falls, delirium, infections and adverse medication interactions, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission says.  

One of the sponsors, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a registered nurse who has worked in the long-term care setting, said these changes will be especially beneficial in isolated, rural parts of the country, with limited access to care.

“Medical innovation and technology is at the forefront of today’s health care system, and it is vital that the Medicare program embrace advances in emergency medicine to ensure that quality, affordable care remains available to our nation’s seniors,”  Black said in a statement. Other sponsors of the bill include Adrian Smith (R-NE), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

Industry advocates applauded the bill’s introduction this week.

“The RUSH Act will bring Medicare fee-for-service into the 21st century by allowing value-based contracts with medical groups who provide high-quality, on-site emergency care facilitated by a telehealth connection. This should help stem the flow of patients from nursing home to hospital by treating patients in place,” Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White said.