Expansion of Telemedicine Authorized
Recent legislation authorizing expansion of telemedicine in Texas should enable counties to achieve significant cost reduction and improved services in jail health services and indigent health care. Senate Bill 1107, effective Jan. 1, 2018, removed prior restrictions and increased the availability of telehealth services. Previously, the Texas Medical Board required doctors to conduct in-person visits prior to telemedicine appointments. Under S.B. 1107, doctors may consult with patients who they have not evaluated in person, provided all other medical standards are met. As with in-person visits, telemedicine must comply with HIPPA privacy requirements and adhere to the applicable standard of care.
Under the new telemedicine law, doctors may prescribe medications and make diagnoses via telemedicine. Patients may refuse telemedicine care and require in-person visits. Insurance companies may not deny coverage for video appointments. Doctors may not prescribe chronic pain medications (opioids) or chemical abortions.
Video telepsychiatry has already been implemented in many Texas jails. This service provides immediate evaluation of potential mental health inmates without the cost and inherent danger of transporting unstable inmates. It also provides an efficient treatment model for mentally ill inmates. Telemedicine will extend these benefits to clinicians providing physical health services, reducing costs and risks to inmates and county personnel. For indigent health care counties, telemedicine will facilitate group appointments for preprocedure
consultation, chronic disease management, and remote specialty care. With innovative approaches, telemedicine will provide an improved, more efficient system of health care for counties and their citizens. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards is currently considering draft rules to expand the implementation of telehealth in county jails. Commissioners Court members should monitor these rules with the local sheriff to ensure the full, practical application of the new statutes.
For additional information, please call me at 1-800-733-0699.