Great news for telehealth advocates in Florida! As we reported this spring, both chambers of the state’s legislature had passed a new telehealth bill, H.B. 23; the legislation was at the time awaiting the governor’s signature. In summary, H.B. 23 “cements the validity of telehealth services in Florida, establishes new telehealth practice standards, creates a registration process for out-of-state health care professionals to use telehealth to deliver health care services to Florida patients, and introduces…commercial reimbursement provisions.” This month, as the National Law Review first reported, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation, officially making it law in the state.
To recap some of the key provisions: The bill defines 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’s identity. 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. A key change here
regards the 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
laws. Lastly, the bill discusses reimbursement and insurance coverage, though
not requiring health care plans to cover telehealth.
But in the eyes of some telehealth advocates, while the bill represents a positive step forward, there’s a good deal more to be done when it comes to making Florida a more telehealth-friendly state. Specifically, as the National Law Review notes, they assert that the state’s reimbursement policy is still very weak, because “it does not actually require health plans to cover services delivered via telehealth.” Regardless, change is definitely happening when it comes to telehealth policy in Florida. Providers both in and out of state will need to obviously be aware of the new law, but will also need to monitor Florida’s medical board for any updated policies regarding the telehealth laws now in place.