Good news on Florida’s telehealth-friendly H.B. 23, which we discussed in an earlier article: As of last week, both chambers of Florida’s legislature have passed the new bill, further (as the National Law Review sums up) “cement[ing] the validity of telehealth services in Florida, establish[ing] new telehealth practice standards, creat[ing] a registration process for out-of-state health care professionals to use telehealth to deliver health care services to Florida patients, and introduce[ing] less-than-ideal commercial reimbursement provisions.” Work began on the bill in early 2017, through the efforts of the state’s telehealth advisory council. After nearly two years of dedicated research, the legislature decided to move forward; now, it is widely anticipated that Governor Ron DeSantis will sign the bill, making it law in the state.
H.B. 23 makes numerous
changes to existing telehealth law in Florida. The bill begins by providing a
definition of telehealth to include asynchronous store-and-forward technology,
though still strictly prohibiting “audio-only telephone calls, e-mail messages,
or fax transmissions.” Providers are expected to use telehealth technology with
the same standard of care practiced in traditional medicine, meaning there has
to be some way to verify the patient. The bill goes on to define a telehealth
provider, which also “includes an individual who obtains an out-of-state
telehealth registration.” Out-of-state health care professionals are allowed to
deliver telehealth services in Florida without a Florida license if they
complete certain steps. This is a huge departure from the previous law. After
defining key terms, the bill lays out practice standards, including when it
comes to prescribing laws. The former law allowed prescription through
telehealth only for psychiatric disorders or for patients in hospitals.
However, the new law expands prescribing to nursing home and hospice patients
as well. Furthermore, physicians are no longer required to physically examine a
patient before using telehealth, another significant change to telemedicine
practice. Lastly, the bill discusses reimbursement and insurance coverage, though
not requiring health care plans to cover telehealth.
If signed by the governor, the bill
will go into effect in July 2019, with the reimbursement and insurance portion
to take effect January 2020. It may take a bit for the medical board to update
its policies and regulations to reflect the new laws if current policies
conflict, so practitioners will need to navigate Florida health care carefully.
However, it’s undoubtedly a big step forward in what’s already been a banner
year for telehealth legislation across the country. Stay tuned…