Post Date: July 18, 2017

There has been a bill amendment that limits the time needed to create the doctor-patient relationship under the telemedicine technology. The bill states that the doctor and the patient should have a face to face meeting first before moving to the telemedicine platform.

This change was impelled by a group of physicians who do not have enough faith in telemedicine. This change caught the attention of the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) which is a national association that supports the large employers on the retirement, compensation and their health policies. The organization presented a written testimony in favor of the bill before the public hearing which was held on June 12, but it later withdrew its support on June 16 after having a thorough review of the amended bill.

The doctor-patient relationship is vital yet very tricky in telemedicine. Some doctors and doctor’s groups’ argued that new patients should meet with their doctors in person before switching to telemedicine. This debate caught people’s attention, and it obstructed the American Medical Association’s efforts to abstract ethical rules for telehealth until last year when the organization agreed to a document that was in favor of telehealth.

After the passage of this bill, Texas became the last state to eliminate the law that requires doctors to first have a face to face meeting with their patients before applying telehealth. Telemedicine advocates were happy with this decision since they argued that in-person meeting requirement limited the under-served communities from accessing telehealth.

Telemedicine is of many benefits to the residents of Texas as it saves time by minimizing the time that would have been spent by patients attending health centers to meet their physicians. It does a great favor to working individuals who strive to balance between working hours and time for family. This applies to busy parents who lack time to take their kids to health centers.

Telehealth also makes it easy for people living in rural areas to access health care. The elderly and retirees, disabled and those experiencing language barrier problems are also among the primary beneficiaries of these services. Individuals suffering from chronic conditions and transport problems are also beneficiaries of telemedicine. These benefits will be eliminated if telemedicine can only be applied to persons with a pre-existing patient-doctor relationship.

However, this bill excludes the use of electronic mail, audio telephone conversation, phone texting from being applied to telemedicine. The two-way communication is only allowed when combined with a store and forward technology; otherwise, people have to use video calls exclusively. The goal of telemedicine is to expand access to easy and affordable health care and ensuring high-quality services to patients.