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Florida Legislature To Consider Expanding Telemedicine

During the House Health Innovation meeting, Tallahassee Memorial demonstrated a telemedicine visit

Florida lawmakers are grappling with the issue of telemedicine.

Telemedicine allows doctors to digitally connect to their patients—usually through video conferencing. Florida is looking to Georgia as a guide in how to craft itstelemedicine policy. Paula Guy heads The Georgia Telemedicine network, TeleHealth. She says physicians must support telemedicine for it to work, and the best way to ensure that is by paying them:

“They have to make sure they get paid. I’ll speak bluntly about it. Unfortunately or fortunately, they have to make a living. Docs don’t do free care. If they think they’re going to have to see a patient via telemedicine and not get paid, they’re not going to do it. And you are not going to be successful.”  

Telemedicine is viewed as a way to reach rural patients who may not have much access to doctors. Others see it as a cost-saving measure, with its focus on prevention. Florida’s Medicaid program for low-income people does reimburse telemedicine costs, but it’s only for people with a few specific conditions. Private insurers can pick and choose whether they reimburse and at what rate. Several of the proposals already filed call for doctors to be reimbursed the same for telemedicine as they would be for in-person visits.

Lawmakers may also take up licensing and prescribing issues as well.

The telemedicine issue could become yet another scope-of-practice battle in the legislature. Guy says some physicians may be opposed to the practice because they feel it takes away from their clients.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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