On May 14ththe Delaware General Assembly passed HB 69 amending Title 18, the state’s Insurance Code, and Title 24, governing health care professions and occupations, to facilitate the use of “telehealth” and “telemedicine” in the delivery of health care to patients located in Delaware. The bill defines “telehealth” as “the use of information and communications technologies consisting of telephones, remote patient monitoring devices or other electronic means which support clinical health care, provider consultation, patient and professional health-related education, public health, health administration, and other services as described in regulation.” “Telemedicine” is defined as “a form of telehealth which is the delivery of clinical health care services by means of real time two-way audio, visual, or other telecommunications or electronic communications, including the application of secure video conferencing [to] facilitate the assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management and self-management of a patient’s health care by a health care provider practicing within his or her scope of practice as would be practiced in-person with a patient.”
The proposed amendments to the Insurance Code would require health insurers to cover telehealth and telemedicine services at the same reimbursement rates as in-person consultations. The proposed amendments to the Medical Practice Act, Chapter 17 of Title 24, include a new section 1769D authorizing physicians to practice telehealth and telemedicine. Under section 1769D, diagnosis and treatment via telemedicine is only permitted if (1) the physician has previously conducted an in-person examination of the patient, (2) there is another Delaware-licensed healthcare provider present with the patient, (3) the diagnosis is based on both audio and visual communication, or (4) the service meets the standards for establishing a physician-patient relationship pursuant to guidelines established by major medical specialty societies, such as radiology or pathology.
The bill also authorizes the professional boards of the following health care professions to promulgate regulations governing the use telehealth and telemedicine by such professionals: physician assistants, respiratory therapists, genetic counselors, podiatrists, chiropractors, dentists, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, mental health and chemical dependency counselors, psychologists, dietitians and social workers. A bill authorizing the use of “telehealth” in the practice of physical therapy was previously signed by the Governor in August 2014 (see December 3, 2014 DE Health Law Blog regarding the regulations proposed by the Examining Board of Physical Therapists pursuant to that bill).
The full text of HB 69 can be viewed by clicking here.