Legislation introduced in the U.S. House would create a federal definition for telehealth and set principles for states to use as guidance when developing policies that govern telehealth. Based on California law, the bill’s goal is to incentivize states to enact more favorable and uniform telehealth policies.

Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) sponsor H.R. 3750, “The Telehealth Modernization Act.” Both are members of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. The proposed federal definition for telehealth is: “The term ‘telehealth’ means, with respect to health care that a health care professional is authorized to deliver to an individual in person under state law, such health care delivered by such health care professional to such individual not in person, from any location to any other location, and by means of real-time video, secure chat or secure email, or integrated telephony.”

The bill would set a federal standard for telehealth that if a state authorizes a health care professional to deliver care to an individual, the state also should authorize that the care can be delivered through telehealth. Nothing in the bill changes the application of HIPAA privacy regulations during the provision of telehealth, or affects the standard of care for medical or clinical appropriateness under state laws.

The proposed federal standard also has multiple conditions for delivery of care through telehealth that states should consider adopting. These conditions cover (1) accessibility and review of medical history, (2) identification of underlying conditions and contraindications, (3) diagnosis, (4) document evaluation, medical records and provision of medical information, (5) transparency regarding professional credentials, (6) no assurances concerning items or services such as writing a prescription, and (7) prescription requirements.

The Health IT Now Coalition of stakeholders and telehealth vendor American Well support the legislation. Text of H.R. 3750 soon will be available at congress.gov.

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