Telehealth companies see sunnier skies ahead in Texas
- Telehealth companies are gearing up for some Texas-sized business following passage of telemedicine legislation earlier this month. Senate bill 1107 was passed May 11 and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott within weeks.
- Teladoc said Friday that it is set to expand its video services in the state as soon as the bill becomes law. American Well is also ready to provide telehealth services via clinicians on its platform.
- Under the bill, patients and doctors can establish a relationship without an in-person visit or having another healthcare provider present with the patient. The measure ends a contentious battle to get Texas to revise its restrictive telemedicine rules.
The loosened restrictions are being roundly applauded as a step forward in pushing the quickly growing telemedicine field into the mainstream. A recent survey showed that three-quarters of healthcare organizations said telemedicine was a medium or high priority for them, with 30% tagging it as high. Kaiser Permanente recently announced that more than half of all its members' physician encounters were virtual visits.
And the money is following. Venture capital funding for health IT in the first quarter of this year nearly doubled from Q4 2016 and was at $1.6 billion. Kaiser said $3.8 billion of its annual capital spend is IT-related.
Dallas-based Teladoc reported 2017 Q1 revenues of $42.9 million, up 60% from a year ago, and a net loss of $15.65 million — beating analysts’ estimates. Revenue from subscription access fees and visit fees rose 66% and 39%, respectively. Total membership and total visits also increased by 34% and 60%, respectively.
In 2015 Teladoc sued Texas and its medical board, claiming the states telemedicine rule, which requires physicians to meet face-to-face with patients before prescribing treatment, unfairly limits access to telehealth services in the state. The state and medical board appealed a lower court’s refusal to dismiss the lawsuit, but eventually withdrew their appeal.
The new Texas bill does require doctors providing telehealth services to give patients information about follow-up care and to share records of the encounter with the patient’s primary care physician, if they have one.
Those in the telehealth field say that kind of collaboration has already begun. “I think there’s a clearer vision for what the appropriate next steps are to keep the industry safe and credible while increasing value as well as efficiency and cost savings,” Henry DePhillips, Teladoc’s chief medical officer, told Healthcare Dive at the recent American Telemedicine Association’s annual meeting in Orlando.
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