Healthcare reform is driven by the Triple Aim objective of lower cost, high quality, and better patient satisfaction. Technology, coupled with reduced cost methods of healthcare delivery are therefore at the tip of the healthcare reform sword. So, it’s no wonder why telemedicine is fast becoming a darling of this sector. In Florida Telehealth Law is developing rapidly and fast sprinting to the front of healthcare delivery!
Imagine being a healthcare professional able to deliver services anywhere in the world. No travel or lodging costs. Imagine being a patient in an underserved area being able to access the best of the best no matter where you live. It’s really Star Trek stuff!
The legal, ethical and medical challenges associated with Florida Telehealth Law are under close review. But this is not paralysis by analysis at all. In fact, telehealth provider after telehealth provider is jockeying for position, and all lights are green!
The American Medicine Association (AMA Resolution 713-A-15) recently requested CMS to update its direct supervision requirements (that require a physician to be physically present when medical care is provided) to allow real-time, telemed based visual and audio interaction. The Florida Medicare carrier doesn’t yet recognize telemedicine as an acceptable method of providing direct supervision for services like radiation therapy. But the pressure is on at both the federal and state level to round out Florida telehealth law.
The U.S. Congress is looking closely at broad telehealth law expansion in the Medicare program via the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2017. The Act brings broad expansion of telehealth initially to federally qualified health centers and all rural health clinics. Expanded services include diabetes education, respiratory therapy, audiology, speech and language therapists. Additional congressional action is focused on kidney patients seeking treatment in their homes and patients being treated for congestive heart failure.
Many states are pushing forward as well. Michigan recently passed a law allowing physicians to proscribe controlled substances via telemedicine without an in-person exam, something which telehealth law Florida has not yet permitted. Ohio has expanded telehealth based prescription for non-controlled substances. Oklahoma moved in a similar direction this year.
Florida broadened its telehealth laws back in 2016 and has been working to examine ways to further broaden its commitment to telehealth. In fact, the Agency for Healthcare Administration is currently scheduling meetings on the topic (most recent one was October 17th).
The future is bright for telehealth law in Florida as it tackles issues necessary to implement it fully in a way that ensures patient safety and professional accountability. In the upcoming months, we can expect Florida and other states to tackle issues like
- Interstate licensure requirements for physicians
Prescribing protocols, especially when controlled substances are involved
On site physician verification of treatment (versus consulting) physicians
Video requirements, especially applicable in the behavioral health space
Expansion of the “incident to” direct supervision requirements to incorporate telemedicine