Texas governor signs law expanding telehealth services

Dive Brief:

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed Senate Bill 1107 into law over the weekend, paving the way for expansion of telehealth services in the Lone Star State, Politico reported.
  • The new law, which allows doctors to provide remote care and consultation with patients without a prior in-person visit, ends a contentious years-long legal tussle between Teladoc and the Texas Medical Board over that state’s requirement that telemedicine practitioners first meet face-to-face with patients. It also adds video to Texas’ definition of telemedicine.
  • Texas State Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) told the Dallas News the law requires that telehealth services be paid like any other covered service, saying it will be especially helpful to patients in rural areas with limited access to healthcare.

Dive Insight:

Texas was the final state to eliminate the in-person requirements, paving the way for telemedicine in the state. The relaxed restrictions allow direct-to-consumer telehealth vendors like Teladoc, American Well and Doctor On Demand to establish videoconferencing operations nationwide and sink their teeth into Texas’ lucrative healthcare market.

"This is a huge step forward for the telehealth industry, especially as we continue to grow and innovate," Doctor On Demand CEO Hill Ferguson​ said about the new Texas law. "We’ve always believed video is the only responsible way to practice telemedicine," he told Healthcare Dive via email.

According to Teladoc’s website, 35 Texas counties have no family physician and the state has only about 71 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents — placing it 46th nationwide.

Teladoc and American Well both announced plans to expand operations in Texas when the legislation was passed earlier this month.

With its ability to reduce costs and increase patient satisfaction, healthcare organizations are embracing telemedicine at record numbers. A recent survey found roughly three-fourths of organizations see telemedicine as a medium or high priority, and 30% tag it as high. Kaiser Permanente recently revealed that virtual encounters account for more than half its members’ visits.

All that interest is good news for telehealth companies. Dallas-based Teladoc saw 2017 first-quarter revenues climb 60% to $42.9 million, compared with a year ago, beating analysts’ estimates. Revenue from subscription access fees and visit fees were both up, as were total membership and total visits.

Filed Under: Health IT Health Law
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