By Ann Hogan, Class of 2018
After years of debate, on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the Texas Senate unanimously passed Bill 1107, legalizing telehealth and telemedicine in the state of Texas and is to take effect immediately. Telemedicine is a health care service delivered by a licensed physician or health professional to a patient at a different physical location than the physician or health professional using telecommunications or information technology.
Bill 1107 removes the requirement of a face-to-face consultation between a patient and physician providing a telemedicine medical service within a certain number of days following an initial telemedicine service in order to create the physician-patient relationship. Now, a physician-patient relationship can be created through telephone or video.
Bill 1107 delegates the authority for the Texas Medical Board to create rules to effectuate appropriate quality care, the prevention of fraud and abuse, and the supervision of the healthcare professionals. It also requires the physician to comply with the standard of care that would apply to the provision of the same health care service or procedure in an in-person setting. Mental health services are excluded from this provision. Also noteworthy, physicians are not permitted to prescribe an abortifacient or any other drug or device that terminates a pregnancy through telemedicine.
The passing of this bill will likely have a significant effect for rural provider areas. For Texans who live in rural areas, telemedicine will allow them to seek care from providers via phone or video and have prescriptions called in to their local pharmacy. This will increase the efficiency of health care for Texans and save them time and money.