Senator Proceeding With New Texas Telemedicine Rules

Texas may be on the road to revising its telemedicine regulations, with Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) saying he would sponsor a bill that “eliminates the requirement for physicians to meet with patients in-person before using telehealth services.”

Texas is one of the last states in the country to mandate that an in-person physician and patient relationship must be established before telehealth services can be used. According to mHealth Intelligence, a compromise bill is reported to be heading to the Legislature to eliminate this requirement.

“I think we will have a bill very soon,” Schwertner told the Houston Chronicle.

Texas’ telemedicine battle started in 2011, when the state medical board told health professionals they risked losing their licenses if they failed to arrange an in-person meeting with patients before doing business, such as prescribing medication online or on the phone.

Since then, the Texas Medical Board has tried to amend rules to enforce the restriction on telemedicine. But in 2015, Teladoc, a North Texas telehealth company, objected to the board’s rules on the grounds that they would “unreasonably interfere with the company’s ability to do business.” Robert Pitman, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas, issued an injunction against the board, and a lawsuit filed by Teladoc is expected to go to trial.

mHealth Intelligence reported Texas telehealth advocates and medical groups were discussing reducing strict enforcement on telemedicine services and modernizing state telemedicine policies. Tom Banning, chief executive of the Texas Association of Family Physicians, said in a statement the private meetings represented a “thawing of tensions” between the two sides that could lead to compromise legislation.

The DFW Hospital Council told D CEO Healthcare that if Texas is able to get a bipartisan bill passed on telemedicine and telehealth in the 85th Legislature, it will be extremely beneficial to the state and its residents.

“We commend all stakeholders in this effort to move forward with Texas legislation on telehealth and telemedicine,” said Steve Love, DFW Hospital Council president. “This is an excellent example of people working collaboratively together so we improve the patient’s care. We are very excited about the enactment of this potential bill as we look forward to the bill being introduced, discussed and passed.”

Posted in Government/Law, News.