LITTLE ROCK - A legislative panel on Tuesday gave final approval to a regulation allowing doctors to treat Arkansas patients remotely using audio and video technology.
A second proposed regulation concerning telemedicine was on the agenda of the Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee of the state Legislative Council but was withdrawn by the state Medical Board so the rule can go through a public-comment period.
The Medical Board voted in June to approve proposed regulations governing telemedicine, as required under Act 887 of 2015. The Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson enacted the legislation to encourage the use of telemedicine in Arkansas, which is ranked last in the nation in telemedicine practice standards by the American Telemedicine Association.
The Rules and Regulation Subcommittee on Tuesday approved Regulation 2.8, which will allow a doctor-patient relationship to be established through an examination conducted using real-time audio and video technology that provides at least as much information as the doctor could obtain through an in-person examination.
Last month, the House and Senate committees on public health, welfare and labor declined to sign off on Regulation 2.8 and the proposed Regulation 38, which states that a patient completing a medical history online and forwarding it to a physician is not sufficient to establish the a doctor-patient relationship and does not qualify as “store-and-forward technology,” which under Act 887 is not restricted by law.
Dallas-based telemedicine company Teladoc has objected to the latter regulation, saying it conflicts it with Act 887 and that the store-and-forward provision was a substantive, last-minute change to the regulation approved by the Medical Board without due transparency. Board attorney Kevin O’Dwyer has denied the charge.
Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, co-chairman of the Rules and Regulation Subcommittee, said Tuesday he wanted the Medical Board to hold a new public hearing on Regulation 38. O’Dwyer told reporters later the public hearing will be held in early October.
“A version will be passed by the Medical Board,” O’Dwyer said. “I don’t know what version. Whether it will have store-and-forward or not, I don’t know.”
Claudia Tucker, vice president of governmental affairs for Teladoc, said in a phone interview Tuesday the company supports a broader definition of store-and-forward technology than the Medical Board has proposed.
“We think that you should want as much information as possible to be able to put into a patient record, and you would want as much information as possible for a physician to be able to review prior to having a patient encounter,” she said.
Teladoc also opposes a provision in Act 887 that requires a patient to be at the site of a health-care professional to receive treatment via telemedicine, which would bar Teladoc from operating in Arkansas in the manner that it now does in all of the other 49 states.
Tucker said Teladoc will express its views on the store-and-forward provision in the Medical Board’s October public hearing and will seek a change to Act 887 during the legislative session that begins in January.