Florida lawmakers introduce telemedicine legislation

FTelemedicine pixalorida could see legislation later this year that would create statewide guidelines on the use of telemedicine. A bipartisan bill has been filed in Tallahassee that, if signed into law, would more clearly define what telehealth is, who is considered a telehealth provider and outlines what the standard of care is for those providers.

HB 545 also authorizes telehealth providers to prescribe controlled substances “except that telehealth may not be used to prescribe a controlled substance to treat chronic nonmalignant pain as defined in § 458.3265, Fla. Stat. Paragraph three of this section defines how a telehealth provider should document a patient’s medical record when telehealth is used,” the legislation reads.

The companion bill SB 478 authorizes an emergency medical technician, paramedic, or a health care practitioner to provide telemedicine services through the use of certain telecommunications technology to a patient who is a resident of Florida. It also requires telemedicine services to be covered by specified Medicaid programs “in the same manner as services provided to a recipient in person,” and it prohibits “the regulation of telemedicine services from being construed to restrict the delivery of certain emergency medical services, etc.”

Under existing law, Florida’s Medicaid system does not pay for telehealth services. While the bills require only healthcare providers licensed in Florida to offer telemedicine in the state, the legislation would allow Florida physicians to consult with out-of-state physicians via telemedicine.

Lawmakers who introduced the two bills have said they will work together to get legislation passed this year.

Last year, the Florida Board of Medicine updated telemedicine standards. The new Rule 64B8-9.0141, Florida Administrative Code, defines what telemedicine is and what physicians are not permitted to do. It states: “Telemedicine shall not include the provision of health care services only through an audio only telephone, email messages, text messages, facsimile transmission, U.S. Mail or other parcel service, or any combination thereof.”

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