(The Center Square): A bill that expands and causes permanent telehealth in Texas to go to Governor Greg Abbott’s table for signature. Telemedicine, or telehealth, allows doctors to care for patients outside of the traditional office visit.
During last year’s state shutdown, Abbott temporarily granted state exemptions to allow medical services from existing Texas Health and Human Services Commission programs to be offered to patients through telemedicine / telehealth. The waivers helped patients receive timely medical care through online appointments and it was also shown to be cost effective.
The new bill makes these waivers permanent and expands access to care in a number of ways.
HB 4, presented by Four Price representative R-Amarillo, received widespread public and bipartisan support. It was passed unanimously in the House and Senate by votes of 147-0 and 30-0, respectively.
“Utilization technology,” Price argues, “has the potential to continue to improve patient outcomes by making the patient see and receive treatment in a more timely manner. In addition, the use of telemedicine provides greater access to specialists. doctors from all over the state ”.
The legislation was introduced in response to Abbott asking the legislature for the resignations to be permanent. In his State of the Union address in February, Abbott said Texas “should take the opportunity of this session to permanently expand telemedicine so that all Texans in all regions of the state are they can benefit, ”which is what the bill seeks to do.
Abbott is expected to sign the bill, which will go into effect Sept. 1.
The bill addresses the gaps related to the use of technology in providing services and information to many Texas patients.
It allows the creation of guidelines on how providers can use email or text messages to communicate with patients, allows the use of “telecommunications or information technology” in outpatient programs for the treatment of abuse of substances and adds rural health clinics to the list of providers, including federally qualified health centers.
It includes public health and Medicaid plans, preventive health and wellness screenings, case management services, physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy, nutritional counseling, behavioral health assessments and services, among other types of office visits.
It will remove permission from the Texas Medical Board to establish a general requirement for first face-to-face visits, according to the Texas Medical Association. However, the council is still empowered to ensure that “patients who use telemedicine services receive adequate, quality care.” The law still requires that “physicians meet the same level of care as is required for a face-to-face visit,” that is, if a physical examination or any other aspect of a face-to-face visit is required to perform. the level of care, the patient should be seen in person, not virtually.
The new law also eliminates the requirement for a clinical place of service, as long as the standard of care is not compromised. Previously, the board imposed certain requirements based on the patient’s location, according to the association’s notes.
“The new rules eliminate location distinctions, emphasizing rather than establishing a patient-physician relationship and satisfying the level of care,” he says.
The association has provided information on its website about what the new law means for patients and how they can use the technology to participate in telemedicine.