Last week, Louisiana legislators approved the removal of certain restrictions on the delivery of telemedicine services to residents of Louisiana to encourage the provision of telemedicine services in the state.  H.B. No. 570 was signed by the President of the Senate on June 5, 2016 and sent to Governor John Bel Edwards on June 6, 2016.

Notably, the Bill modifies the telemedicine requirements under La. Stat. Ann. § 37:1271, and R.S. 40:1223.3(5) and 1223.4(A) as follows:

  • A physician practicing telemedicine in the state who does not maintain a physical practice location within the state of Louisiana (but who is licensed in the state and has access to the patient’s medical records) is no longer required to first conduct an in-person patient history or physical examination of the patient before engaging in a telemedicine encounter.
  • In sum, La. Stat. Ann. § 37:1271 now requires that telemedicine providers hold an unrestricted license to practice medicine in Louisiana; obtain access to the patient’s medical records upon consent of the patient; create a medical record on each patient and make it available to the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners upon request; and, if necessary, provide a referral to a physician or arrange follow-up care in the state, as indicated.
  • The definition of “synchronous interaction” found in S. 40:1223.3(5) is now broadened to allow providers to use audio (without video) for telemedicine encounters if the same standard of care as in-person encounters is maintained.
  • This means that patients will be able to use a phone for telemedicine purposes, which is especially useful for patients who may not have: access to video-based technology, the know-how to connect with a provider using video-based technology, or an appropriate data plan/wireless connection for the simultaneous transmission of video.
  • Each state agency and each professional or occupational licensing board or commission authorized to adopt rules and regulations specific to the practice of telemedicine pursuant to S. 1223.4(A) is now prohibited from adopting any rules or regulations that are more restrictive than the provisions of the present law.

Like Alaska’s recent modifications to its telemedicine requirements, the Louisiana Bill broadens the base of available health care providers through the removal of the in-state restriction, which helps to increase the supply of physicians and competition from lower-cost providers, reduces transportation costs and improves access to quality care.  In addition, this Bill expands the types of technologies that may be used to deliver telemedicine services, which will better accommodate the significant portion of health care consumers who prefer phone consultations to access care.