As a result of a new bill signed in Texas that eases the delivery of care via telemedicine in the state, Teladoc has announced that it will expand its telehealth offering in Texas, re-activating its video capabilities.
Earlier this month, the Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1107, which removes the restriction that a patient-physician relationship must be established with an in-person visit before a telemedicine consult takes place. This has drawn the ire of telemedicine companies such as Teladoc, which have argued that it restricts their ability to provide services to patients.
To this end, Teladoc has been mired in a six-year legal dispute in the state regarding the proper scope and use of telemedicine, which company officials now say has been closed with the passage of this legislation. As law firm McDermott Will & Emery put it in a recent analysis, “At the center of the dispute has been the Texas Medical Board’s requirement that a face-to-face encounter take place at an ‘established medical site’—a site with licensed or certified health care professionals, sufficient technology and medical equipment to allow for physical evaluation, and of sufficient size to accommodate patient privacy and presentation of the patient to the provider—between the patient and provider prior to delivering care via telemedicine, unless a very limited exception applies.”
But the new law allows for a patient-physician relationship to be established without an in-person visit, “protecting all forms of telemedicine,” according to a statement from Teladoc. Teladoc has operated in the state continuously since 2005; more than 3 million Texans have access to Teladoc.
“In addition to preserving the right to telemedicine, the bill also puts in place a regulatory environment that paves the way to further transform the healthcare experience with future innovation,” Teladoc officials noted. Indeed, the law also added video to Texas’ definition of telemedicine. The bill stated specifically, “A valid practitioner-patient relationship may be formed using telemedicine as long as the practitioner complies with the in-person standard of care and the practitioner either (1) has a preexisting practitioner-patient relationship with the patient established in accordance with the rules that are authorized to be adopted under a section designed to coordinate the adoption of rules to determine a valid prescription; (2) communicates, regardless of the method of the communication, with the patient pursuant to a call coverage agreement established in accordance with Texas Medical Board rules with a physician requesting coverage of medical care for the patient; or (3) provides the telemedicine medical services through the use of synchronous audiovisual interaction or asynchronous store and forward technology, including store and forward technology in conjunction with synchronous audio interaction.”
Officials from Teladoc stated that Texans “stand to benefit considerably from the pending law as Texas faces some of the largest healthcare access barriers in the country, with issues including proximity to doctors’ offices, long wait times and a shortage of doctors and basic medical care resources. Thirty-five counties in Texas have no family physician and Texas ranks 46th among the 50 states in terms of primary care physicians per capita, with only 71.4 PCPs per 100,000 residents. Telemedicine has been an effective tool to help the state begin to overcome these challenges,” they said.