House approves ECHO telehealth bill; heads to president

The Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act has passed both the House and the Senate.

The House approved the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act by voice vote yesterday—it now heads to President Barack Obama's desk for a likely signature.

The Senate passed the bill, which aims to increase access to healthcare in rural areas though Continuing Medical Education focused on telehealth technology, last week. 

RELATED: Senate passes Project ECHO bill, aiming to boost care access for rural populations through telehealth training

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the bill, which he cosponsored, will help make the medical brain power of institutions like Vanderbilt University Medical Center available to doctors in rural parts of Tennessee and other rural areas of the country.

"House passage of this legislation is good news for people fighting complex diseases in rural Tennessee and other parts of the country that are far away from specialists and large medical centers," he said.

"This bill will help patients in remote areas who need specialized treatments get those treatments from their local doctors, because it instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to study technology that will help connect those doctors with specialists at institutions like Vanderbilt.”

The ECHO model, created at the University of New Mexico, was first introduced in 2013 by Sanjeev Arora, M.D., a professor in UNM’s Department of Internal Medicine. A liver disease specialist, he developed the model after he realized that one of the greatest barriers to providing care was a lack of trained clinicians who could treat the condition.

RELATED: New Mexico nonprofit brings specialty training to primary care doctors

Since 2013, ECHO has expanded to more than 90 hubs for more than 45 diseases and conditions. Support has been widespread, with boosters in Congress, the healthcare industry and its trade groups, the vendor arena and more.