Texas' new telemedicine law has made many physicians happy and opened the door to long-awaited opportunities. Under the new law physicians now have a clearer--and potentially more flexible-- set of guidelines to follow when treating patients via telemedicine. The new law clarifies what type of technology is required, when in-person visits are mandatory, and where telemedicine visits can take place. Of course, following Medicare rules remains essential in maintaining compliance.
The new law specifies three choices for the use of technology
• Real time audiovisual interaction between the physician and the patient;
• Technology that provides clinically relevant video or photographic images; or relevant patient medical records, such as diagnostic images;
• And other software audiovisual technology that complies with state and federal security and privacy laws.
Paramount in the new law is the removal of the mandatory initial in-person visit. As long as a telemedicine visit meets the appropriate level of quality care standards that all physicians follow, physicians are permitted to treat patients regardless of location. A telemedicine visit may not be appropriate in certain instances, such as treating certain chronic conditions, conducting diagnostic procedures, ensuring the quality of the visual exam, or lacking access to the patient's medication and historical diagnostic information. In these cases an in-person visit would be indicated.
The new state law also allows the patient to be at home for the telemedicine visit instead of the previous requirement of a clinical place of service. The emphasis is shifted from physical location to establishing a patient-physician relationship while satisfying the standard of care.