Last month, during a meeting with telemedicine stakeholders, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) requested insight about the need for rulemaking pertaining to "call coverage" and telemedicine. TMB did not provide any proposed language for discussion. Rather, TMB staff used the open discussion to obtain input and suggestions for future presentation to TMB members as they decide whether to make any revisions to telemedicine call coverage regulations.
Current rules for call coverage using telemedicine require the participation between physicians of the "same specialty" for each other's active patients. Some stakeholders voiced concerns that they perceive that requirement as too restrictive — particularly in smaller groups and rural areas. In a prior comment letter, TMA had suggested TMB modify this language to expressly permit coverage by physicians in the same or similar specialty.
Another limitation some stakeholders identified is the current requirement for reciprocal services (i.e., an offer to cover for the other physician at another time). TMA's representative, Dallas internist Sue Bornstein, MD, recognized the challenges of ensuring accessibility to care in rural areas but emphasized the need to encourage continuity of care and accountability between the treating physician and covering physician, as well as between the physician and patient.
The TMB stakeholder meeting came on the heels of the April adoption of rules that require physicians to conduct a face-to-face or in-person examination before prescribing drugs. TMA viewed the effort as a big step toward protecting patients. Those rules are being challenged in federal district court alleging, among other things, TMB violated federal antitrust laws by adopting the rules. In May, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that blocked TMB's rule. The injunction will continue until the federal lawsuit against TMB is resolved. A trial on the merits is tentatively scheduled for February 2017.
TMA will remain engaged in petitioning the government through the telemedicine rulemaking process as the board continues to consider the matter.
Action, Aug. 3, 2015
Last Updated On
May 12, 2016