SB 700 – The Florida Telehealth Expansion Bill
Traditionally, the provision of telehealth services has been fairly limited across the nation; however, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an uptick in the use of telehealth services. This increase was mainly due to state and federal governments’ temporary modification of laws surrounding the practice of telehealth, which loosened licensure and portability requirements and increased access to virtual care.
Specifically, Florida’s Surgeon General issued an Emergency Order in March 2020 that allowed certain Florida licensed physicians to implement telehealth services in place of in-person examinations. The Order also permitted certain out-of-state healthcare professionals to temporarily provide telehealth services to persons in Florida to prepare for, respond to and mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
This Order, like many of the other temporary modifications to the telehealth laws, has been lifted – leaving the state to determine next steps for the provision of telehealth services.
In filing SB 700, Senator Rodriguez and the bill’s supporters focused on closing some of the legal gaps impeding the expansion of telemedicine in Florida. SB 700 promotes a technology-neutral definition of telehealth, the prescription of certain controlled substances via appropriate telehealth mediums and proposes to expand the scope of telehealth services reimbursed by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Additionally, SB 700 would permit out-of-state telehealth providers to work with in-state approved non-physician health care providers.
When discussing the details of SB 700, Senator Rodriguez commented:
“Telemedicine allows for qualified health care workers to interact with patients remotely and provide certain services. The problem is that while telemedicine is a boon for Floridians, there are still several limitations on how telemedicine can be practiced and in what manner. How does this bill resolve that problem that [the] bill would address three key areas of telemedicine practice in Florida?
The three areas [where it can help with limitations] are [allowing] Medicaid to reimburse … remote patient monitoring. [Ending] technology restrictions on telehealth such as requiring audio only devices, for instance, would open up texting options services where applicable or desired. And lastly it authorizes telepharmacy for prescription services.”
As of now, SB 700 has progressed out of the Senate Health Policy Committee with a unanimous vote and is pending approval by the full legislature. Many have hopes for SB 700 approval and have found telemedicine to be one of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If SB 700 is approved and signed into law, Wolfe Pincavage recommends that providers become familiar with the details of the new law and other existent state laws relating to the practice of telemedicine. With the implementation of any new law, liability risks come into play.
Providers are encouraged to maintain best practices, including patient education regarding the telehealth visit and providing informed consent that details any potential risks associated with the telehealth services and the security measures involved. Likewise, providers should implement training and education in efforts to avoid any medical malpractice liability. Further, providers must be sure to accurately document telehealth visits and maintain adequate medical record documentation to ensure patient confidentiality and standards of care are met, which protects providers against potential liability.
Liability concerns aside, SB 700’s potential expansion of Florida’s telehealth scope and services will likely promote healthcare advancement and improve access to care statewide.