Texas Medical Board (TMB) rules adopted last week send a message that technology is no substitute for physical patient exams. By voting to require physicians to conduct a face-to-face examination before making a diagnosis or prescribing drugs, TMB took a big step to protect patients who receive telemedicine services.
TMB has been examining the practice of telemedicine for years and is involved in a lawsuit with Dallas-based company Teladoc.
In a comment letter TMA sent to TMB on the proposed rules, the association states that it "supports the use of telemedicine that can provide safe, high-quality, timely care to patients, particularly in areas of the state that have critical physician shortages. However, TMA believes that Texas must maintain appropriate safeguards to protect patients and ensure telemedicine complements the efforts of local health care providers."
According to the rules, physicians can see a patient via telemedicine for the first time — without a prior in-person visit — if the patient is at a location that allows a physician to adequately examine and communicate with the patient in real time with the assistance of technology and a patient site presenter. The new telemedicine rules also permit mental health services to be provided at a patient's home, including residential treatment facilities, nursing homes, jails, detention centers, and assisted living centers, through real-time audio and video technology.
Despite claims to the contrary from critics, the changes do not and are not intended to interfere with traditional on-call coverage arrangements, based on the board’s discussion during its April 9 meeting.
Barring a court challenge and subject to any changes during the legislative session, the rules take effect June 3.
Action, April 15, 2015
Last Updated On
May 12, 2016