Texas law marks turning point in telemedicine

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill into law, representing the beginning of a new era of telemedicine access in the Lone Star State.

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Over the weekend, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law, changing the face of telemedicine in the state.

With Abbott’s signature on Senate Bill 1107, physicians can now utilize telemedicine services with patients they haven’t met in person. This quashes an earlier requirement that physician-patient relationships had to be established with an in-person visit first.

Texas was the last state to still uphold this requirement, according to Politico. Now that it’s abolished, direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies can expand their services across the nation. Though technically, there are still limitations on phone call-based telemedicine in Arkansas and Idaho.

This is good news for companies like Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, American Well and MDLive.

Teladoc is especially cheering. The telehealth provider has been entwined in a six-year legal battle with the Texas Medical Board regarding the scope of telemedicine in the Lone Star State.

“Teladoc undertook the responsibility to preserve access to telemedicine in Texas more than six years ago, and we are gratified to have been the telehealth company invited to collaborate with the Texas legislature and others in the state to accomplish this laudable goal,” Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic said in a statement. “Our commitment to the state and its citizens has never wavered, and we now look forward to reactivating our industry-leading video capabilities and ending our legal dispute in the state of Texas.”

During an earnings call earlier this month, Gorevic expressed anticipation over the bill’s passage. “The passage of this bill into law would resolve our outstanding issues with the Texas Medical Board and would represent a significant victory for the people of Texas in securing their path to quality, affordable and accessible healthcare,” he said.

Teladoc started operating in Texas in 2005. But around 2010, the Board began limiting the use of telemedicine. The situation evolved into an enormous antitrust lawsuit, in which Teladoc sued the Texas Medical Board under antitrust laws, according to MobiHealth News.

Last week, Gorevic told MobiHealth News that Gov. Abbott signing the bill would put an end to the need for the lawsuit.

The new law is also a win for residents of Texas, where access to healthcare — especially in rural areas — continues to be a challenge. According to Teladoc, Texas ranks 46th out of the 50 states in terms of primary care physicians per capita, as there are only 71.4 PCPs per every 100,000 people. Additionally, 35 of Texas’ 254 counties don’t have a family physician.