Teladoc services outlawed in Texas starting today (Updated)

Correction 6/4/2015:   As of Friday, May 29, the federal courts ruled in favor of Teladoc, therefore blocking the Texas Medical Board’s rule from taking effect on June 3. Click here for a press release with additional details regarding the antitrust lawsuit and recent ruling.

Starting today, Teladoc, the Dallas-based telemedicine giant, will no longer be able to provide its services legally.  Today, June 3, is the day the new Texas Medical Board (TMB) rules affecting telemedicine go into effect. The rule says that: “Establishing a diagnosis through the use of acceptable medical practices including documenting and performing patient history, mental status examination, and physical examination that must be performed as part of a face-to-face or in person evaluation….” (22 Texas Administrative Code 174.8 (a), emphasis added). This makes Teladoc’s services, which treats patients primarily by phone, illegal in most cases. However, there is an exemption for remote mental health visits.

Teladoc has had its share of run-ins with the TMB. Four years ago it had a tiff for Teladoc’s doctors prescribing drugs to patients they had not seen in person. Teladoc sued, and won a temporary injunction while the Texas board went through a rulemaking process. This latest rule follows another emergency rule issued by the board in January that required physicians to see a patient for an in-person visit before prescribing drugs.

Teladoc, founded in 2003, argues that the rules “take away Texans’ access to a safe, affordable and convenient health care option that many have depended upon for more than a decade.” Its CEO Jason Gorevic says, “The rules as they’re written today only allow a physician who has seen a patient in person tointeract with them remotely. That’s basically saying you can’t go shop anywhere else.”

The TMB’s rulings, however, does have the support of many physicians as well as the Texas Medical Association (TMA). The TMA stated in a letter that the new rules “protect patients and ensure telemedicine complements the efforts of local healthcare providers.” Bexar County Medical Society president Dr. James Humphreys emphasizes,”You have to be able to see them, listen to their heart, touch them. You can’t just answer a questionnaire over a phone.” Moreover, its ruling reflects the new technology guidelines released by the Federation of State Medical Boards as well as the American Medical Association last year.

However, Dallas healthcare attorney Brenda Tso suggests that the rules aren’t just about patient safety. “In this situation, doctors are trying to protect their practice from telemedicine,” she says.

Regardless of whether it’s about protecting financial interests, the fact is that Texas is the largest state in the continental US with a large spread out population. It already faces medical access issues in many of its more rural areas and really benefits from telemedicine. Of course, according to the new rules, Teladoc can still continue providing its services by switching to a video telemedicine platform.

Unlike MDLIVE and American Well, Teladoc has been slow to get in the video telemedicine market. It looks like now is a good time to take a look at VSee 🙂

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