Some Telemedicine Now Allowed Across State Lines to Battle COVID-19
By Joey Berlin

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has paved the way for health care professionals to administer certain telehealth services across state lines to help in the fight against COVID-19, giving out-of-state physicians some interstate telehealth treatment allowances beyond what Texas state law allows.

HHS last week issued an amended declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which largely provides physicians and others immunity from liability for certain claims related to a public health emergency.

One of the effects of the new amendment is to authorize qualified health care personnel to order or administer “covered countermeasures” by telehealth for patients in a state other than where the health care professional is allowed to practice.

“Covered countermeasures” under federal law include “qualified pandemic or epidemic product[s],” and certain drugs and devices used for approved responses to COVID-19, such as rendering telehealth services to administer or order a COVID-19 diagnostic test or an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

The amendment preempts some state laws on out-of-state telehealth and telemedicine services. But the Texas Medical Association’s Office of the General Counsel warns that the preemption is narrow. The amendment only preempts state laws that ban ordering or administering approved countermeasures through out-of-state telehealth or telemedicine. And out-of-state professionals still must comply with the laws of the state where they’re authorized to administer or order the allowed federal list of “countermeasures.”

Under state law, telemedicine is the practice of medicine, and Texas patients expect physicians treating patients in Texas to be licensed in the state and held accountable to the Texas Medical Board, TMA Vice President for Advocacy Dan Finch said.  

While TMA would favor an expedited license reciprocity process between states that tracks Texas’ standards of licensure, Mr. Finch said, TMA would not favor waivers or preemption of state licensing continuing after the COVID-19 public health emergency is over.

Last Updated On

December 09, 2020

Originally Published On

December 09, 2020

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Joey Berlin

Associate Editor

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Joey Berlin is associate editor of Texas Medicine. His previous work includes stints as a reporter and editor for various newspapers and publishing companies, and he’s covered everything from hard news to sports to workers’ compensation. Joey grew up in the Kansas City area and attended the University of Kansas. He lives in Austin.

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