Arkansas Loosens Telemedicine Restrictions

It’s official: Doctors in Arkansas can now treat a first-time patient using a telemedicine platform as long as they perform a “face-to-face” examination using real-time video technology. The new rule went into effect August 26. However, at least for the time being, patients must be located in a healthcare facility during telemedical encounters, although care for end-stage renal disease is exempted from that requirement.

In August, the Arkansas Legislative Council’s Rules and Regulations Subcommittee okayed changes to Regulation No. 2(8) of the state’s Medical Code allowing a physician licensed in Arkansas to establish a relationship with a patient by using real-time audio-visual technology. This change brings Arkansas’ telemedicine laws more in line with the rest of the country as they now permit a telehealth encounter to occur without the existence of a prior practitioner-patient relationship.

The Subcommittee did not vote, however, on Regulation 38, which establishes guidelines for telemedicine. That rule was also on the Subcommittee’s agenda but it was ultimately withdrawn. Among other things, Regulation 38 establishes definitions for “store and forward technology” and “originating site” for a telehealth encounter.

As currently written and approved by the Arkansas Medical Board in June, it includes a ban on the use of forwarded medical histories to establish a relationship. The regulation also excludes an online patient questionnaire as a form of “store and forward” technology.

In its present form, Regulation 38 effectively prevents phone-only DTC telehealth delivery models from operating in the state of Arkansas.

According to Health Care Law Today, these issues have been vigorously debated at recent Arkansas Medical Board meetings due to disagreements over the forwarding of patient medical records as a means to establish a valid practitioner-patient relationship and whether that qualifies as “store and forward” technology.

The Arkansas Medical Board will take up the matter again a public hearing on October 6, where the Board will once more consider Regulation 38. As reported by mhealthintelligence, the Medical Board’s lawyer, Kevin O’Dwyer, has said, “A version will be passed by the Medical Board. I don’t know what version. Whether it will have ‘store and forward’ or not…that I don’t know.”

Click here or here to read more about these developments in Arkansas’ telemedicine regulations.


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