Joseph Goss, MSJ, RRT-NPS, FAARC
While most of us was enjoying a leisurely week leading up to the 4th of July holiday weekend, the NJ Legislature was busy. In just 3 days, both the State Senate and Assembly pass the NJSRC’s proposed bill, and before this article was finished, the governor has signed the bill into law. The second, exciting news occurring the same week was the “Telehealth” bill. The NJSRC supported the bill because it specifically mentioned respiratory therapists as providers of telehealth. With all this news, you can see your society is always busy.
The new bill – strike that – law, brings a few significant changes to the practice of respiratory care. The first notable change is an affirmation of the role RTs play in educating patients and caregivers about respiratory care in a disease management program. RTs are experts in lung disease management and now the law will reflect that expertise.
Second, amidst a national effort among other states, New Jersey becomes the fourth state to implement the requirement for the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential needed for licensure. Ohio, California, and Arizona have completed their change to require new applicants to possess the RRT credential in order to practice, and Georgia, Oregon, Connecticut and North Carolina are working on their respective efforts. The RRT examination requirement acknowledges the change in health care to the use more highly trained professionals and away from RTs original role as technicians.
Third, is the recognition of all the continuing education earned. This change finally corrects an issue the society has had since the inception of its continuing education requirement, which is the fact that we sometimes only earn partial credits during education conferences. Now, partial credit will not be denied for education programs if the total credit earned is at least one hour in duration. Additionally stated, credit for continuing education will not be issued for any program designed to fulfill employment responsibilities specific to the expectations of an employer. Several years ago, the State Licensing Board issued regulations for performance based education. The NJSRC had issues with this program from the beginning. With this law change, those programs are not valid for continuing education.
Other notable changes include recognition of respiratory care protocols, title protection, the elimination of temporary licensure except in certain circumstances and the provision of professional consultation services. The NJ Society views all these changes as positive benefit to RTs in New Jersey.
Changing this discussion to telehealth, our lobbyist was busy working with the bill sponsor who had us included as a provider of telehealth services. Specifically, the law states a health care provider includes, among other professionals, respiratory therapists. If you are not familiar with telehealth, it is the use of information and communications technologies to support clinical health care, provider consultation, patient education, public health, health administration, and other services. Including the term consultation services in the law helps recognize our role in telehealth services.
Most important is provision for Medicaid, NJ Family Care programs, and other insurance carriers that offer health benefits plans to provide coverage and payment for health care services delivered through telemedicine or telehealth. Payment is made to the individual or facility that provides the telehealth services. What that means is that a physician or hospital could receive reimbursement for a respiratory therapist providing services. The NJ Department of Health will need to publish rules to outline further details.
What impact could we have in telehealth? A large one! Therapist around the country are already having an impact on patient care. We already provide consultation in school asthma education management, home COPD programs, smoking cessation counseling and others, but telehealth can further improve these outcomes. Read more about RT’s role in telehealth in these AARC articles: What is Telehealth and Why Should Respiratory Therapists Care? and Telehealth is Right Here, Right Now for South Carolina RT. There is also an AARC webcast Telehealth and the Respiratory Therapist: A Perfect Partnership which provides an overview of telehealth and its current practice.
Government certainly works slow but when things heat up, things move Fast!
Information on the practice act changes and new telehealth law can be found on our website. For additional information on our legislative activities, contact us.
This article was update August 2.