Telemedicine Still Up For Discussion In Florida Legislative Sessions

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Telemedicine continues to be a heated issue during the 2015 Legislative session. With all the new technologies, mobile medical applications, expansion of health care access under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the emphasis on quality of care, telemedicine is at the forefront of the health care industry.

Many major health insurance carriers are backing telehealth, adding online doctor visits as a covered benefit. For example, WellPoint and Aetna among other health insurers, are allowing millions of patients to schedule online visits with health care professionals. These insurance companies are working together with companies that offer virtual visits with doctors who, in some states, can prescribe drugs for anything from sinus infections to back pain. Given today's busy lifestyles and reliance on technology, telemedicine is a trend not likely to disappear.


Weighing the Pros and Cons.


During a recent Senate subcommittee hearing in Tallahassee, Florida, industry experts told lawmakers that innovation and the Internet have helped lower costs and improve patient outcomes for those with limited access to health care. However, they also pointed out several challenges that those using telemedicine could face, including:
 
-    The lack of interstate licensing, which currently requires physicians to be licensed in each state in which they provide services;
-    Poor Internet connections, which can limit the implementation of telemedicine to several parts of the country; and
-    Provider reimbursements, with many providers not covering telemedicine or others reimbursing at below cost rates
                        

The Current Status of Telemedicine in Florida.

In March 2014, the Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine adopted the updated standards for practicing telemedicine. The final rule, 64B8-9.0141, Florida Administrative Code, defines telemedicine as:

The practice of medicine by a licensed Florida physician or physician assistant where patient care, treatment, or services are provided through the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications.  Telemedicine shall not include the provision of health care services only through an audio only telephone, email messages, text messages, facsimile transmission, U.S. mail or other parcel service, or any combination thereof.

The rule states that the standard of care shall remain the same regardless of whether a physician provides services in person or by telemedicine. Also, those providing telemedicine services are responsible for the safety, security and adequacy of their equipment.

During the 2015 Legislative session, telehealth continues to be up for consideration. HB545 and the companion bill SB478 defines what is determined to be telemedicine or telehealth. These bills call for coverage by the Medicaid program. However, efforts to further the use of these bills may be in jeopardy, as they remain stuck in the House and Senate committees, but lawmakers are optimistic that they would be able to reach an agreement during this Legislative session.

Health care providers need to stay mindful of the legal issues associated with telemedicine. It is important when practicing telemedicine to ensure your services are compliant, and you are appropriately protecting patient safety and privacy. Make sure you are using secure video conferencing equipment, staying within the standard of care and using applicable regulation when prescribing any medication. Remember, Florida Law prohibits the prescription of controlled substances through telemedicine.  


Comments?

Does your practice use telemedicine? In your opinion what are the benefits, and what are the difficulties of telemedicine? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

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Sources:

Hurtibise, Ron. "More Will Visit Doctors by Teleconference Under Proposed State Law." South Florida Sun-Sentinel. (February 17, 2015). From:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/personal-finance/fl-telehealth-bill-moves-forward-20150217-story.html

AHA News Now. "Senate Hearing Examines Telehealth Benefits, Barriers to Expansion." AHA News. (April 22, 2015). From:
Gross, Grant. "Lack of Broadband in Some Areas Limits Telemedicine." IGD News Service. (April 21, 2015). From:
 
About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Telemedicine, Florida telemedicine, online doctor, virtual healthcare, e-visit, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), Florida telemedicine, health care reform, defense attorney, defense lawyer, health care attorney, health care lawyer, health law, administrative law, The Health Law Firm attorneys
 
 
"The Health Law Firm" is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. - The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
 
Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm 4/28/2015

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