Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey this past week signed a law aimed at expanding access to telehealth in the state.
The omnibus law is aimed at making services provided to Arizonans through Ducey’s executive orders permanent.
“Telehealth expands access to medical services for low-income families and those living in rural areas, protects vulnerable populations, and allows snowbirds visiting our state to receive telemedicine from their home state,” said Ducey in a statement.
“Patients and medical professionals know what’s best for their needs, and we’re working to make sure they have access to those services, diclofenac teva posologie ” he continued.
WHY IT MATTERS
The new law packages together a number of policies aimed at facilitating virtual care in the state.
Among other provisions, the legislation:
- Allows out-of-state professionals to provide telemedicine in Arizona under certain conditions.
- Ensures payment parity coverage for audio-visual telemedicine services.
- Prohibits healthcare boards from enforcing rules requiring patients to visit in person before being prescribed most medications.
- Permits telehealth medical exams in the worker’s compensation space if all parties consent.
Local telehealth experts say the legislation could be a game changer.
“Disparities in healthcare are a huge issue in Arizona,” Dr. Ronald Weinstein, founding director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program, told Healthcare IT News.
“There are 22 tribal nations in Arizona, many located in rural areas, that also have both significant disparities in healthcare and internet access,” said Weinstein.
“In addition, we have an estimated 900,000 snowbirds who winter in Arizona, many of whom lose contact with their doctors back home. Telehealth provides their solution as well,” he said.
Weinstein expressed high hopes for virtual care’s potential to provide an on-ramp to greater adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning throughout the healthcare industry. “What is especially noteworthy is that telemedicine and telehealth provide the gateway for across-the-board implementations of AI into every facet of the healthcare delivery system in the United States,” said Weinstein.
“By 2050, well within the careers of today’s medical students, AI-enhanced telehealth will have transformed healthcare delivery into an enterprise that would be barely recognizable for us today,” he predicted.
As for potential downsides, Weinstein pointed to the licensure angle as one to pay particular attention to.
“I’m concerned about tracking practitioners’ competencies and, potentially, impaired physician performance now that interstate medical licensing is in place,” he said. “Perhaps we should consider creating a national database for impaired physicians with interstate licenses.”
“I acknowledge that this is a complicated issue but there must be accountability and a continued focus on patient safety,” he added.
He also flagged the importance of minimizing the digital divide as telehealth becomes more ubiquitous.
“A multipart effort by multiple organizations, both governmental and nongovernmental, is needed to minimize the digital divide for underserved patients,” he said.
“Assuring that everyone has access to broadband Internet and compatible end-user devices is foundational to any effort to eliminate the digital divide,” he continued.
THE LARGER TREND
Even as federal legislation to expand telehealth access has been reintroduced, a number of states have taken matters into their own hands.
State leaders in New York, Massachusetts, Indiana and others have moved forward with plans to make virtual care more accessible and sustainable in the long term.
ON THE RECORD
“Arizona’s HB 2454 becomes foundational for the permanent role of telehealth in mainstream healthcare here in Arizona and, potentially, model legislation for other states,” said Weinstein.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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