Texas legislators have taken steps to make telemedicine more accessible for physicians and their patients. In 2017, Texas Senate Bill 1107 removed the site restrictions and requirement for an in-person follow-up visit. SB 1107 defined telemedicine as the “practice of medicine” and requires a Texas license to care for Texas patients. The legislation affirmed telemedicine is a means of providing a covered service, not the service itself. In Texas, telemedicine must adhere to the same standard of care as an in-person visit. While coverage parity with in-person visits is a provision of SB 1107, payment parity with in-person visits is not. In 2019, Texas House Bill 3344 allowed physicians to choose the telemedicine platform of their choice, removing the barrier where health insurance plans dictated to physicians what platform they must use to get paid for the service.
During the COVID-19 public health emergency, telemedicine has quickly accelerated and expanded as most health care visits transitioned from in person to virtual. Gov. Greg Abbott put in place various waivers that allowed Medicare and Medicaid payment of in-person contracted rates for contracted services provided via telemedicine.
- 74% of Texas physicians adopted telemedicine since March 1, 2020.
- 72% of patients had their first telemedicine visit during the pandemic, with close to three-fourths indicating they want virtual care to remain a standard part of their care.
Patient and physicians have embraced telemedicine and now know it is a safe and effective way to deliver care. Patients no longer have to travel to physicians for every visit. They benefit from continuity of care by seeing their own physician for a blend of in-person and telemedicine visits.
Patient Acceptance: Patient telehealth satisfaction scored 860 on a 1,000-point scale, according to the J.D. Power U.S. Telehealth Satisfaction Study released in October 2020.
Quality of Telemedicine Care Delivered: Telemedicine can enhance patient safety by preventing care delays and reducing patient exposure to contagions in the health care environment.
Texas must adapt and ensure telemedicine is a viable path for patients and physicians in the near future.
TMA’s Legislative Recommendations
- Ensure covered services provided to a health-plan-enrolled patient by a contracted physician are paid at the contracted rate. The service provided – whether in person or via telemedicine – should be the choice of the physician and the patient.
- Ensure telemedicine, defined by statute as the practice of medicine, adheres to licensing and regulatory standards established by the Medical Practice Act and enforced by the Texas Medical Board.
Last Updated On
January 13, 2021
Originally Published On
December 15, 2020