TMA Testimony by Ray Callas, MD
Senate Bill 1107 / Telemedicine Bill
Senate Committee on Health and Human Services
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Good morning, Chairman Schwertner and members. I am Dr. Ray Callas. I am an anesthesiologist from Beaumont and chair of the Texas Medical Association Council on Legislation.
On behalf of our more than 50,000 members, we very much support Senate Bill 1107.
Telemedicine and the ability to deliver patient care through the use of communications technology is constantly evolving. This bill looks to modernize the definition of telemedicine and focus the regulatory structure so we can better integrate it into medical care delivery.
The bill before you is the result of more than a year’s worth of discussion among TMA, the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, and the Texas E-Health Alliance … and dozens of other stakeholders. Our thanks go to the chair, Dr. Schwertner, for his leadership in achieving agreed-to language.
From our vantage point, the bill is singularly focused on making sure that care delivered through telemedicine adheres to the same generally accepted standard of care delivered in person. Patients deserve no less.
More broadly, the bill establishes the critical pathway to:
- Defining the establishment of a patient-physician relationship via telemedicine;
- Requiring the physician to have access to the clinically relevant information necessary to make a diagnosis in accordance with standards of care;
- Stating very clearly that the standard is the same as for in-person care; and
- Requiring health plans to make available to physicians their policies on telemedicine, including payment practices, coding, claims submission, and the like.
This likely is not the last discussion we will have on telemedicine. But it represents a very good start.
The constant improvements in technology, its growing availability, the potential for cost savings, and the potential for extending access to needed services make this a very exciting area of medicine.
Today, telemedicine is largely viewed by many as the service itself. In the long term — and maybe not so long — telemedicine becomes not the service but another means for physicians to provide necessary and covered care … another tool in the doctor toolbox.
This bill is very important in advancing this effort. And we want to be sure that we establish a good framework so that physicians have the ability to use telemedicine — appropriately and safely — for the benefit of their patients.
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