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Telemental Health in the Sunny State of Florida

Florida’s Newly Published Report from the Telehealth Advisory Council

Telehealth is a constantly evolving mode of healthcare, and there are numerous aspects of the field in need of clarification so that statutes, policies, and practices follow the same guidelines. Telehealth is not a type of health care, rather it is the manner in which care is given. As the standards for that care become more defined and the use of this mode more prevalent, so will the need for caregivers who are adequately trained and licensed to deliver telehealth.

In 2016, the State of Florida created the Telehealth Advisory Council in order to survey, research and recommend changes to telehealth in order to better serve those living in the state.  The increase in both access and use of telehealth will also require an increase in health care practitioners offering telehealth services.

The Council has just published its results in a report titled “Expanding Florida’s Use and Accessibility of Telehealth.” This report encompasses six areas in which opportunities for growth in support are available, as well as the appropriate use and understanding of telehealth as it applies to statutes in Florida. It can be found Recommendations in the report include:

  1. Defining telehealth as a mode of providing care and services through information and communication technology by a Florida licensed health care practitioner who is located at a site other than where a recipient is located. (This excludes Medicare plans.)
  2. Health insurance policies renewed on or after July 1, 2018, shall provide coverage for services provided via telehealth to the same extent as coverage provided for in-person.
  3. Similarly, payment rates for practitioners shall be equivalent to those for telehealth services and in-person consultations. (This excludes Medicare plans.)

The Council recommends that Florida support modifications to Medicare telehealth laws to expand coverage as well as the Medicaid fee-for-service rule.

  1. All practitioners using telehealth to Florida residents must be licensed in Florida, regardless of where the practitioner is located. Furthermore, an interstate licensure compact has been suggested to minimize the barriers of time and expense required to be licensed in multiple states.
  2. Practitioners and patients may establish a relationship through telehealth, and medications can be prescribed when deemed appropriate, with limitations on controlled substances.
  3. Though technological barriers are decreasing, recommendations to facilitate progress include expanding and integrating electronic health records, promoting existing programs to increase access, and schools and associations providing training to better serve via telehealth.

Nationwide, the area of telehealth is expanding with greater access and greater ease of use, as well as improved understanding and inclusion with regard to health insurance and reimbursement. Properly trained and licensed practitioners in every field of health care are also in high demand as this mode of care becomes more readily available to patients. The State of Florida has issued outlines of areas to be addressed in its statutes when seeking clarification and clarity regarding the mode of telehealth.