Add North Carolina to the list of states exploring the
possibility of expanded telehealth coverage. As the Winston-Salem Journal
first reported, Senate Bill 361 is making its rounds quickly through the state’s
legislature. It passed the necessary House committees, and now awaits hearing
on the House floor. The bill that originated in the Senate, however, is not the
same one appearing before the House. It has become more of a potpourri of the original
and sections of five other House bills; while it’s now primarily focused on
expanding who can conduct initial examinations for involuntary commitments, the
bill does contain a couple of key telehealth-related provisions.
The first of these telehealth provisions: the addition of
North Carolina to the Psychology Interjurisdictional Licensure Compact (PSYPACT).
If the bill passes, psychologists from North Carolina will be able to serve
patients across state lines in other compact states, and vice versa. The bill
also focuses on modernizing the state’s Medicaid telemedicine policies. North
Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will be required to
reimburse for telemedicine and telepsychiatry care performed in a patient’s
home; in addition, DHHS will also have to cover telemedicine and telepsychiatry
services rendered over the phone or through video cell phone. There is one
notable change, though, in this bill that is worth noting. The telehealth
definition includes the typical prohibition of the use of text messaging,
electronic mail, and audio-only communication. However, the prohibition
includes the following exception: “unless either (i) additional medical history
and clinical information is communicated electronically between the provider
and patient or (ii) the services delivered are behavioral health services.” It
may still be prudent, though, to include a video component with the audio
during a telehealth interaction.
State Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, is very excited about
what this bills means for health care in general, but more importantly for North
Carolina’s telehealth community. “The language would make telehealth more
efficient and more accessible and hopefully at a lower (per visit) fee because
there is less brick-and-mortar involved,” he told the Journal. It seems likely
the bill will pass in the House, and hopefully, it will make telehealth more
efficient and accessible.