Texas Telehealth Bill Signed Into Law

With Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R-TX) signature on it over the weekend, Senate Bill 1107/House Bill 2697 officially became Texas law. And with that, Texas became the final of the 50 states to do away with the requirement that a doctor-patient relationship be established only in person. As MobiHealthNews, the Dallas Morning News, and others first reported, the law opens the door for the establishment of the patient-provider relationship via telemedicine. But despite its passage and the governor’s signature, the new law has not been without its detractors.

The legislation received strong support from the telehealth industry, including from Houston, Texas-based Teladoc, and other direct-to-consumer telehealth companies. Supporters highlighted the benefits that the legislation would bring to patients in rural areas, as well as in other underserved communities. “Texas has 35 counties that don’t have a single family physician in them,” said Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic in an interview with MobiHealthNews. “They rank 46th in the country in terms of primary care physicians per capita at a time when the state’s population is growing faster than any other state.” Texas State Rep. Four Price, who helped author the legislation, echoed this in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, noting that the expanded access to telehealth care “will help even in congested urban or suburban areas. It will open some doors and make it more convenient.”

Despite passing in both the state House and Senate, the legislation was not without controversy. Indeed, the Texas Medical Board had for years expressed concerns about eliminating the in-person requirement, believing that this could open the door to so-called “telephone medicine,” and was at the time of the legislation’s passage embroiled in a costly, multi-year legal battle with Teladoc over antitrust issues. For both the board and telehealth companies alike, the state legislature’s involvement signaled a compromise. “Texas’s case is a unique one in which the state [legislature] needed to get involved not only because of what was happening with the medical board but the implication of what could happen with other boards,” explained LaToya Thomas of the American Telemedicine Association, in an interview with MobiHealthNews. In other words, stay tuned.

Click here for the article from MobiHealthNews on the Texas telehealth bill.

Click here for the article from the Dallas Morning News on the Texas telehealth bill. 

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