A bipartisan group of representatives introduced new legislation in July that would allow physicians to consult nursing homes via video, in the hopes of reducing costly and unnecessary hospitalizations or emergency room visits.

Approximately 45% of hospital admissions from skilled nursing facilities could have been avoided if telehealth care were available, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The agency also said that 19% of hospital transfers originate from SNFs, which the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission asserts can unnecessarily expose seniors to falls, delirium, infections and adverse medication interactions.

The Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalization (RUSH) Act of 2018 seeks to cut those numbers by providing emergency telehealth care.

“The RUSH Act presents a great opportunity for government to step back and allow innovation to solve a problem which has restricted access to care at nursing homes for decades,” said Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), one of the bill’s sponsors.

Another sponsor, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a registered nurse who has worked in long-term care settings, 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 healthcare 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.

Other bill sponsors include Joe Crowley (D-NY), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM). Industry advocates, including Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White, applauded the bill’s introduction.

“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,” White said. “This should help stem the flow of patients from nursing home to hospital by treating patients in place.”