Telemedicine can and will do a lot of good when it comes to improving patient care and saving money. But lawmakers in Texas are pushing back, making it more difficult for telemedicine technology companies to provide their services in the state, such as Teladoc, the Dallas-based telemedicine provider—and the largest such company in the U.S.—that hundreds of employers offer to more than 2 million employees.
The Texas Medical Board recently released new rules that make it harder for doctors to prescribe drugs remotely and for patients in Texas to receive them. However, the rules do allow e-prescribing under certain exceptions. For example, if a patient is at a medical clinic or with a healthcare worker who can examine the person in place of his or her actual doctor— sort of a surrogate examination— then the doctor could remotely prescribe prescription drugs to the patient.
In response to the new rules and restrictions, Teladoc has filed a lawsuit accusing the board of limiting supply and increasing prices. Both sides have had an ongoing battle over this issue for four years now.
Mari Robinson, the executive director of the Texas Medical Board, told NPR that these new rules and restrictions have been put in place to ensure patient safety.
“How can a physician make an accurate diagnosis when they have no objective diagnostic data?” Robinson told NPR. “All they have is what the patient told them,” which, in her opinion, is not enough information.
Rene Quashie, an attorney at Epstein, Becker & Green who spoke with NPR, thinks Texas should reconsider telemedicine and the benefits it could bring. After all, Quashi pointed out, Texas has 200 counties that are considered medically underserved, and more than a dozen counties have just one primary care doctor. Telemedicine could make a huge difference for those populations.
But when it comes to embracing telemedicine, Texas is at the bottom of the list of accepting states.
According to the American Telemedicine Association’s (ATA) recent state report card, 22 states have received the highest possible telemedicine composite score– which means that those states have a policy in place that accommodates the adoption and use of telemedicine. These states include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- South Carolina
The ATA also reports that the District of Columbia, Idaho and West Virginia have dropped their scores from an “A” to a “B” due to new, more restrictive telemedicine clinical practice policies in those states. Texas and Alabama are the only states with the lowest telemedicine composite scores.