Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that will allow physicians licensed in Texas to supply telemedicine services to patients they have never met in person. Telehealth is defined as “the use of technology to deliver health care, health information or health education at a distance.” The new bill makes Texas the last state to remove a requirement that patients establish an in-person relationship with their provider before receiving telemedicine services. According to ‘Teladoc’, a telehealth company established in Texas in 2005, the passage of this bill into law will prove to be a tremendous step towards making quality healthcare affordable and accessible to Texas residents. The new law is seen as a win for residents of Texas, where access to healthcare, especially in rural areas, continues to be a challenge. Texas ranks 46th out of the 50 states in terms of primary care physicians per capita and additionally, 35 of Texas’s 254 counties don’t have a family physician.
WHAT DO TEXAS RESIDENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW TELEMEDICINE LAW?
- The virtual visit must either be audiovisual or use “store-and-forward” technology in conjunction with an audio-only interaction. The bill added video to Texas’ definition of telemedicine and does not require another clinician to be present with the patients during the virtual visit.
- According to Dallas Morning News, under Senate Bill 1107 physicians can treat patients via video consultation provided they take previous medical records and test results into account. Reimbursement for telehealth services will be on par with in-person medical visits.
- The telemedicine practitioner is required to access and use relevant clinical information to meet the same standard of care as in-person encounters.
- Within 72 hours, the telemedicine provider must send a report on the encounter to the patient’s primary care provider.
- The legislation directs the Texas Medical Board, the Texas Board of Nursing, the Texas Physician Assistant Board, and the Texas State Board of Pharmacy to jointly develop rules that define valid prescriptions for telemedicine visits. However, a telemedicine provider cannot prescribe abortion drugs.
Most agree that the biggest upcoming battle for telemedicine will be the battle for universal reimbursement. Until the next fight, providers, vendors, and legislators can celebrate what seems to be the rare legislative win-win – a bill it seems just about everyone is happy about.