Alaska Legislature Passes Bill Expanding Telehealth Options

May 10, 2014 in News

The Alaska Legislature has passed a bill (HB 281) that would allow physicians to write prescriptions for patients without an initial face-to-fact visit, EHR Intelligence reports (Bresnick, EHR Intelligence, 5/8).

The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Sean Parnell (R).

According to Modern Healthcare, HB 281 would significantly change the state’s current policy, which describes the “prescribing, dispensing or furnishing” of medications without first conducting an examination as “unprofessional conduct” (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 5/7).

Bill Details

Under the bill, licensed primary care doctors who live in Alaska would be allowed to conduct medical appointments and consultations, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications all over the telephone.

According to EHR Intelligence, the measure follows recently released telehealth policy guidelines from the Federation of State Medical Boards (EHR Intelligence, 5/8).

However, the bill’s guidelines are in “apparent variance” from FSMB’s guidelines, which do not qualify audio-only consultations as sufficient enough to establish physician-patient relationships, Modern Healthcare reports (Modern Healthcare, 5/7).

Comments From Bill Sponsor

Rep. Lynn Gattis (R), the bill’s sponsor, said that telehealth already is used by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in the state, adding that the bill “mimics the system already in place for some Alaskans and makes it available to everyone” (EHR Intelligence, 5/8).

In a statement about the measure, Gattis said, “In this age where we can do almost everything with a smartphone, it should not be necessary to drive to the doctor’s office to have a physical consultation for many common ailments” (Modern Healthcare, 5/7).

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