Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH) recently announced that they have reintroduced the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act. This bill expands access to stroke telemedicine (also called “telestroke”) treatment in Medicare, and has earned the support of the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Neurology.
Congressman Griffith said, “At a 2001 event, my then-colleague Virginia Delegate Bob Bloxom suddenly began having a significant stroke. Two doctor-delegates, John O’Bannon and George Broman, promptly rushed to his aid. Dr. O’Bannon, a neurologist, phoned for an ambulance, and informed the paramedics of Bob’s condition. Doctors were soon able to administer to Bob the clot-busting Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), after which he recovered rapidly. To everyone’s astonishment Bob returned several days later to the Virginia House of Delegates, making remarks on the floor with no discernable impact to his speech or motor functions. tPA and telestroke ought to be readily available to help improve the chances of recovering from a stroke.”
Congresswoman Beatty said, “The FAST Act, as the name implies, will help more stroke victims gain faster access to high-quality care through remote evaluation and treatment—commonly called telestroke. As a stroke survivor and Co-Chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition, I know firsthand how minutes can literally mean the difference between life and death. That is why I proudly join Congressman Griffith in reintroducing the FAST Act to ensure telestroke is readily available to more people. I call on Congress to pass the FAST Act and do it fast!”
“Many thanks to Reps. Griffith and Beatty for reintroducing the FAST Act today,” said American Heart Association President Steven Houser, Ph.D., FAHA. “This critical bill would make a world of difference for stroke survivors facing barriers to telestroke services. Evidence indicates that telestroke improves patient outcomes and reduces disability. However, nearly 94 percent of the strokes that occur in America take place in areas where telestroke is not paid for by Medicare. We urge Congress to give more Medicare patients access to this proven form of treatment and support the FAST Act.”
“Telemedicine has the potential to improve the lives of millions of individuals suffering from chronic conditions. Stroke is a condition that needs to be treated immediately in order to minimize damage to the brain. This legislation focuses on expanding access to a proven method for treating strokes quickly,” said Terrence L. Cascino MD, FAAN, President of the American Academy of Neurology. “Stroke patients with access to a neurologist have significantly better outcomes than those that do not. Reimbursing for telestroke consultations under Medicare will dramatically increase the number of beneficiaries who have timely access to a neurologist, ultimately producing steep reductions in disability that should save the federal government money. It’s a win-win.”
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death for Americans and contributes greatly to long-term disability and dementia in some survivors. Through telestroke, a patient having a stroke can gain access to specialists through the use of interactive videoconferencing, even if the hospital at which the patient is receiving treatment does not have a stroke neurologist available around the clock.
Telestroke can expand the diagnoses of ischemic strokes and allow patients to be treated more quickly with Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), a drug that helps dissolve blood clots and reverse disability if administered within the first three to four-and-a-half hours after a stroke. Currently, Medicare only covers telestroke in the most rural, underserved areas. This legislation, the FAST Act, would expand coverage nationwide.
-Submitted by Kevin Baird