Regulations on the way for telehealth in Alabama
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The growth of telemedicine services gave people another reason to stay home during the height of the pandemic. A bill recently signed by Gov. Kay Ivey will add regulations to telehealth visits.
These types of appointments have been taking place since the pandemic began, but in a bipartisan effort, lawmakers and physicians say some rules were needed.
“It’s just one way of delivering health care. Telehealth versus in person,” said Wilson Hunter with the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners.
Now, telemedicine shifted in usefulness to help those who could fall victim to telehealth fraud and people who are harder to reach.
“I practice in a small rural town in Reform in Pickens County,” said Dr. Julia Boothe, president of the Alabama Medical Association.
Boothe experiences the benefits of telemedicine daily. She used it to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but also for patients with transportation issues.
“For some of those we do home visits,” said Boothe. “But we can’t always do home visits, so the telehealth visits have been helpful.”
A bill recently signed by Ivey will add regulations to these visits. For example, after four virtual appointments, the next one must be scheduled in person.
“There are just things that we noticed and we can encounter when we’re actually physically in the space with the patient,” said Boothe. “So telemedicine is not a replacement for those in-office encounters, but it’s just something that can help link and continue that care in between those visits.
Other provisions include verifying the identity of a patient, requiring a patient to identify their location, and getting consent for the online exam.
“Regulations might add a little bit more specificity as to how that can occur,” said Boothe. “And what is a sufficient notice. What are the consent form need to look like.”
Hunter says it could be a few months for the drafts and public hearings before they are finalized, but current telemedicine appointments do not have to be put on pause during this time.
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