Companies in Texas have been providing telemedicine services, or “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications,” for the past several years. Proponents of telemedicine state that the technology offers a more convenient way for doctors to see their patients, thus lifting pressure off of the medical system to meet growing demands. Additionally, telemedicine gives employers an inexpensive alternative for providing health care to their employees. However, new rules, which went into effect this past June, have added additional restrictions to doctors who use technology to communicate with their patients.
Requirement for Doctor–Patient Relationship
The state of Texas requires that doctors establish a relationship with their patients in order to treat them. Opponents to telemedicine claim that this relationship cannot be fostered through the use of telecommunications and will ultimately lead to lower quality health care and limit a doctor’s’ ability to assess his or her patient’s health accurately.
There are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if a patient is at a hospital or another medical treatment facility where a qualified person can inspect him or her and a doctor is able to create a relationship with the patient, then telemedicine is a viable option.
New Requirements Effective Now
Effective June 2015, new rules now restrict the use of telemedicine even further. The state of Texas has decided that electronic communication is no longer enough to satisfy the state’s mandate that doctors establish a relationship with their patients before treatment. Now, “questions and answers exchanged through email, electronic text, or chat or telephonic evaluation of or consultation with a patient” are no longer considered adequate for establishing a doctor-patient relationship.
The Texas Medical Association sided with the state on the decision, and stated that telemedicine could provide quick and affordable care to patients, but that it needed to supplement more traditional health care, not replace in-person visits.
Telemedicine companies say that their doctors are trained to handle diagnoses over the phone, or via the Internet, and that doctors are able to offer affordable, fast service to patients. Moreover, they believe the new laws will likely spell the end for telemedicine practices in Texas. Despite its advantages in speed and cost, opponents to the practice say that the benefits do not make up for the loss of face-to-face contact between doctors and patients.
The new rules regarding telemedicine in Texas are becoming more restrictive and practicing medicine by phone or over the Internet may not meet the state’s demands for establishing a relationship between a doctor and his or her client.
If you practice medicine in the state of Texas through the use of telecommunication, a Texas professional license defense attorney can help you understand the intricacies of the modifications being made to the laws regulating telemedicine and will help you stay in compliance with the ever-evolving state requirements. Please contact the office of Oscar San Miguel, Attorney at Law, to schedule a consultation today. We are available to help you.