Telemedicine groups, medical establishment work toward compromise in Texas

By Jonah Comstock
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Even as the legal battle between the Texas State Medical Board and Teladoc soldiers on, many of the involved parties in the state appear interested in putting the conflict behind them and moving on. 

The Texas Tribune is reporting that lobbyists for groups affiliated with both telemedicine companies and physician organizations recently met in a closed-door session to discuss "modernizing our telemedicine statutes and reducing the regulatory footprint governing the provision of telemedicine services,” according to an email that went out to participants. The Tribune says that representatives for the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, the Texas Medical Association, and the Texas e-Health Alliance were all in attendance, as was a representative for Teladoc.

The conflict between the Texas State Medical Board and Teledoc, which echoes a larger conflict between physician groups and telemedicine stakeholders in Texas, is over whether telemedicine should be permitted without patients and their doctors first meeting in person. Telemedicine groups argue that such a meeting is unnecessary and that requiring it hampers their ability to run a viable business, while physician groups say it's key to responsible care.

The groups told the Tribune that negotiations are still underway, but that they hope to reach a compromise by the end of the summer. Elsewhere Indiana recently passed its own telemedicine legislation, which doesn't require in-person meetings before telemedicine visits, but does require doctors and patients who don't have a prior relationship to establish one. It leaves an in-person meeting as one of several options for doing so.

Teladoc declined to comment to the Tribune. However its competitor American Well is also following the negotiations and issued its own statement:

“We are encouraged by the progress in Texas, which is the result of ongoing conversations between physician leadership and telehealth stakeholders over recent months," Kofi Jones, VP of Government Affairs for American Well, said. "This is the right way to move forward – acknowledge the existing environment, identify key issues, and map a path forward in collaboration. Ultimately, we are highly optimistic that this process will result in expanded opportunities for telehealth that will positively serve both providers and patients in the state of Texas.”

The Texas State Medical Board vs Teladoc case is still ongoing. In December, Judge Robert Pitman denied the board’s motion to dismiss the suit, responding to each of three claims that the suit was invalid, originally made in September. In the process, he settled the issue of “active supervision”, a highly salient point in the case. This initial victory bodes well for Teladoc, though it doesn’t seal the deal by any means. Pitman ruled that the Texas Medical Board isn’t immune to anti-trust action, but will still have to rule on whether the board has, in fact, engaged in anti-competitive activity.Lunarcharge Premium

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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly checks out the Microsoft HoloLens aboard a space station on February 20, 2016. The device is part of NASA's project Sidekick, which is exploring the use of augmented reality to reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency with which astronauts can work in space. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)