TMB Expands Telemedicine, Opportunities for Retired Physicians Because of COVID-19
By David Doolittle

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In response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 “state of disaster” declaration, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) has taken several steps to help Texas physicians safely and effectively care for patients.

On Thursday, the TMB issued a waiver that allows telephone refills of valid prescriptions for treatment of chronic pain by a physician with an established chronic pain patient.

“Due to the seriousness of the opioid crisis and the need to ensure there is proper oversight of chronic pain management, this suspension is only in effect until April 10, 2020,” the agency said. “The physician(s) remains responsible for meeting the standard of care and all other laws and rules related to the practice of medicine. The standard of care must still be maintained related to the treatment of chronic pain patients.”

Earlier this week, TMB allowed expanding the use of telemedicine, temporarily waived license and permit renewal requirements, and allowed retired physicians to return to active status (See below).  

“During this critical time, medical providers will need to focus their attention and energy on the health and well-being of our fellow Texans,” said TMB President Sherif Z. Zaafran, MD. “The Texas Medical Board will be doing all that it can to help assist Texas physicians, and other licensees under our authority, in making sure they stand ready and able to treat patients across the state.”

Texas Medical Association President David C. Fleeger praised the TMB action.

“The physicians of Texas greatly appreciate the speed with which the TMB has made these changes to help us better care for our patients in this crisis,” Dr. Fleeger said. “We are committed to working closely with Dr. Zaafran and TMB Executive Director Brint Carlton to identify and recommend additional necessary changes as the situation progresses.”

Expanded Use of Telemedicine

During the disaster period, telemedicine – including the use of telephone only – may be used to establish a physician-patient relationship, TMB said.

“This expanded use of telemedicine may be used for diagnosis, treatment, ordering of tests, and prescribing for all conditions. The standard of care must be met in all instances.”

Texas laws and regulations on telemedicine have changed considerably to expand access over the past several years. More information on expanding your telemedicine services can be found on the TMA website.

Licensing Requirements

TMB will take into account “extenuating circumstances surrounding the completion of license/permit renewal requirements such as renewal deadlines and completion of continuing education hours” for all license and renewal permit holders regulated by TMB.

Many CME courses, including those offering ethics and professional responsibility credit, are available to TMA members for free on the TMA Education Center thanks to a generous grant from the TMA Insurance Trust.

Retired Physicians Returning to Active Status

Retired physicians whose licenses have been placed on official retired status for less than two years can return to active status during the disaster period, TMB said.

The TMB website includes frequently asked questions (FAQs) on returning to active status, additional requirements, and exemptions for retired physicians to provide voluntary charity care.

Licensing for Out-of-State Physicians

Out-of-state physicians will be allowed obtain a Texas limited emergency license or hospital-to-hospital credentialing “for no more than thirty (30) days from the date the physician is licensed or until the disaster declaration has been withdrawn or ended, whichever is longer,” TMB said.

Governor Abbott fast-tracked temporary licensing of out-of-state physicians last week.

You can also find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

Last Updated On

March 20, 2020

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David Doolittle

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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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