The Texas Medical Board recently voted to place strict limits on the use of telemedicine in the state. The Board’s decision runs counter to a growing trend toward loosening restrictions on telemedicine services.
Under existing Texas medical practice rules, a physician must establish a doctor-patient relationship before providing treatment to a patient. The new rules provide that the typical methods for providing telemedicine—“questions and answers exchanged through email, electronic text, or chat or telephonic evaluation of or consultation with a patient”—cannot establish a doctor-patient relationship. The revised rules still permit telemedicine in limited instances, such as when a patient is at a medical facility and a second healthcare provider is present with the patient to “assist” the remote provider. The new restrictions likewise do not apply to mental health professionals.
The new rules were supported by the Texas Medical Association and other physician-interest groups as a necessary patient safety measure. The Texas Association of Business and several telemedicine providers opposed the rules, arguing that they will undermine an important mechanism for both providing affordable healthcare to a rising population and countering physician shortages. The rules are set to become effective in June and will make Texas one of the minority of states that allow telemedicine consults only after a face-to-face examination has been performed.