‘Telehealth’ bill to go into effect this month

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LANSING, Mich. — A law that will encourage the use of telecommunication technologies to expand access to health care services in Michigan, reduce costs and improve patient outcomes goes into effect later this month, said state Senate Health Policy Chairman Sen. Mike Shirkey.

This use of telecommunication — commonly called “telehealth” — can give patients easy access to their doctors and other health professionals.

“We are all becoming more interconnected through cell phones and other personal electronic devices, but not all areas of the medical field have caught up with us yet,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Telehealth has the ability to change the medical landscape through better access to improved care. This new law is a part of that transformation.”

Public Act 359 of 2016 defines telehealth in the state health code as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support or promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, or health administration.

Nationally, it’s estimated that telehealth is expected to increase from the 250,000 patients who utilized the service in 2013 to more than 3 million patients by 2018. Telehealth will benefit health care professional training and consultation between providers.

The law will encourage medical professionals to utilize modern technologies such as live interactive video, audio and others to connect and communicate with patients remotely. Medical professionals will be permitted to diagnose, prescribe and administer referrals within the existing legal framework when providing telehealth services.

The law has received broad support from within the health care community and beyond, including from the U.S. Department of Justice, General Motors, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Teledoc, Economic Alliance for Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Spectrum Health, and Ascension Michigan.

Public Act 359 goes into effect on March 29.