On May 11, 2017 the Texas House passed Senate Bill 1107 (“SB 1107”), which greatly expands the telemedicine services physicians can provide in Texas. SB 1107 passed the House with the support of substantially the entire House. Senate Bill 1107 was previously passed unanimously by the Texas Senate on March 29, 2017. SB 1107 must still be signed by the Governor before it becomes law. If signed, parts of the bill will take effect immediately, while certain included amendments to the Insurance Code will take effect January 1, 2018. Of note, SB 1107:

  • Creates new definitions for telemedicine and telehealth;
  • Allows a valid practitioner-patient relationship to be established by a telemedicine encounter if the practitioner uses audio-visual interaction or store and forward technology and the practitioner provides the patient with guidance on appropriate follow-up care and, with the patient’s consent, provides the patient’s primary care physician with the medical records pertaining to the telemedicine services;
  • Removes the statutory provision that allows the Texas Medical Board to establish rules that require a face-to-face consultation between a patient and a physician providing telemedicine medical services if the physician has never seen the patient;
  • Statutorily prescribes that services involving telemedicine are subject to the same standard of care that would apply to the provision of services in an in-person setting;
  • Prohibits any regulatory authority (including the TMB) from adopting rules that impose a higher standard of care for telemedicine services than what is statutorily prescribed;
  • Requires fully insured health plans to publish their policies and payment practices for telemedicine on their websites; and
  • Requires certain agencies to adopt rules that establish the determination of a valid prescription in accordance with the telemedicine practitioner-patient standards under the new Occupations Code Section 111.005.

The Texas Senate Research Center’s analysis of the bill can be found here. One of the House Sponsors of the bill, Representative Four Price, stated on the House Floor that the legislative intent of the bill is not to interrupt current practice of using store and forward technology, for instance, when a UTMB physician reads x-rays for a cruise ship passenger. Representative Price further stated that it is the legislative intent that a health plan’s covered services should be treated on the same basis regardless of whether the service was provided in a physician’s office or using telemedicine.

Assuming Governor Greg Abbott signs SB 1107 into law, Texas is about to become a much more telemedicine-friendly state for hospitals, physicians, and companies wishing to expand their telemedicine services. SB 1107 becoming law will also likely lead to the dismissal of the Teladoc lawsuit, as the Texas Medical Board rules in dispute in that case will be eliminated by SB 1107.