One Solution to Improving Telehealth Laws: Simple Subtraction

A Florida lawmaker is looking to improve his state’s telehealth laws by eliminating some of the complexity and opening the door to audio-only phone calls and virtual prescribing.

A Florida state legislator is using the “addition by subtraction” approach in an effort to improve the state’s telehealth regulations.

HB 247, introduced this week by State Rep. Tom Fabricio, aims to expand telehealth treatment by allowing care providers to virtually prescribe controlled substances. It would also include audio-only phone calls in the definition for telehealth.

Fabricio’s bill addresses two popular topics at a time when connected health is seeing a surge of interest due to the coronavirus pandemic. With restrictions to in-person care in place, providers are using a wide range of modalities – including the phone – to connect with patients on care management.

It also touches on the argument that state and federal laws and guidelines might be too complex.

The bill approaches these issues not by adding any regulations or clarifications but simply by striking out what’s already on the books. It eliminates phone calls from the list of uses not included under the telehealth definition, and strikes several paragraphs from practice standards that limit the use of telehealth for prescribing controlled substances to those treating psychiatric disorders, inpatient treatment in a hospital, hospice services and nursing homes.

Telehealth advocates have long been arguing for a loosening of the rules around virtual prescribing, particularly for substance abuse treatment and mental health services. They’d argued that doctors (and in some cases pharmacists) should be able to remotely prescribe and manage medications to reduce unnecessary and burdensome in-person visits and improve care management between those visits that are necessary.

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