ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Emergency Telehealth legislation was approved Tuesday by the Maryland General Assembly and goes into effect upon the Governor Larry Hogan's signature.
It provides a regulatory framework for the implementation of Telehealth and will modernize Maryland’s health care delivery systems making them more efficient and effective.
“This is a landmark day for all Marylanders. This legislation allows doctors and health care providers to make virtual house calls, ensuring that all patients who cannot or should not travel get the health care they need from the safety and comfort of their own home,” said Karen J. Nelson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.
“As we face a worldwide pandemic we can no longer rely solely on the bricks and mortar model as the only way to meet patients’ needs. Telehealth is a reassuring addition to our health care toolkit as we work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Marylanders will be able to use digital communications to speak with their health care providers from home reducing the risks of infection for everyone,” Nelson added.
Senate Bill 402 / House Bill 448 [mgaleg.maryland.gov], sponsored by Delegate Samuel I. (Sandy) Rosenberg and Senators Cheryl C. Kagan and Clarence K. Lam, M.D, authorizes Maryland licensed health care professionals to use Telehealth to deliver health care services within their respective scopes of practice.
The legislation provides clear definitions and standards on how practitioners can establish a patient relationship through Telehealth and deliver care, including issuing prescriptions. Whether a patient sees a health care practitioner in-person or through Telehealth, patients will be assured of the same excellent standard of care.
Telehealth is a delivery method and not a separate service in health care. For that reason, the legislation makes clear that any practitioner using Telehealth must be licensed in Maryland, must meet the same standard of care as for in-person healthcare services, and must comply with all federal and state laws.
Telehealth is defined as obtaining health care services remotely using digital technology and includes all aspects of health care – clinical, non-clinical, and administrative.
“The Maryland General Assembly continues to be a national leader in expanding health care across the board. This year they designed a cutting edge 21st century health care delivery system that will dramatically expand access to services, improve health outcomes, and reduce disparities,” Nelson added.
Telehealth will also eliminate the remaining barriers to affordable birth control. Many thousands of Maryland women of reproductive age do not have easy access to a reproductive health center. Health care providers can now reach into rural and underserved regions of our state and significantly expand access to care for underinsured and uninsured Marylanders. For those who live far from a family planning provider, are home bound for any reason, or lack transportation to attend a reproductive health care appointment, Telehealth is an inexpensive and safe alternative.
“There are many services that that require a physical exam or face-to-face interaction, but prescribing birth control is not one of them. Our objective is to expand the availability of affordable birth control in underserved communities and prevent unintended pregnancies,” Nelson added.
Maryland joins dozens of states across the United States where physicians are using electronic communications to provide care for their patients. Using digital technology to deliver healthcare has numerous benefits for patients and health care providers alike. As a result of this emergency Telehealth legislation a broad cross section of Maryland’s population will see improved access to health care:
- Individuals in rural areas who may not have regular transportation or work schedules to allow them to travel long distances to a health care appointment.
- Those with challenging work or family schedules who may not be able to seek appropriate health care for themselves, their children or their aging relatives.
- People who may have difficulty seeking care because of limited mobility, disabilities, aging issues, or health problems.
- People living with chronic conditions, who need regular monitoring of their vital statistics or individuals who are confined to a bed or wheelchair.
- Women with low-risk pregnancies can keep in touch with their providers with greater frequency, while women with higher risk pregnancies will have better access to specialists or if needed an increased level of monitoring.
In addition, emergency departments will be able to virtually triage, evaluate, and treat non-emergency cases, reducing emergency room wait times and allowing doctors to focus on more urgent cases.