Telehealth Innovation in Texas: Has Texas Gotten A Bad Rap?
Much of the recent media scrutiny may suggest that Texas has gotten a bad rap when it comes to telehealth. But have recent reports painted an incorrect or unfair picture of telehealth innovation in Texas? The TexLa Telehealth Resource Center (“TexLa TRC”) certainly thinks so.
Recent media attention focused on Texas telehealth innovation suggests Texas is behind the telehealth curve. In a recent report, the Texas Business Association said, “Texas lags behind other states in establishing a supportive regulatory environment for the expansion of these services,” while the American Telemedicine Association ranked Texas as one of the worst states for provision of telehealth services in its May 2015 and January 2016 state report cards. Additionally, the ongoing litigation between Teladoc and the Texas Medical Board (“TMB”) over a rule that requires physicians to see patients face-to-face before providing remote care has been viewed by some as stifling telehealth innovation until the litigation is resolved. Amicus curiae briefs filed in support of Teladoc pertaining to the ongoing litigation, including one filed just last month by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, arguing the TMB has engaged in anticompetitive behavior, further bolsters the view that Texas does not support telehealth innovation.
However, the TexLa TRC has a different perspective. Not only is telehealth innovation in Texas not being stifled, but rather, it is growing. The TexLa TRC receives weekly calls from companies and providers who want to stake their claim in the Texas telehealth market. A recent survey reveals there is support in Texas from patients, providers, and employers to increase access to telehealth services throughout the state. According to the TexLa TRC, Texas has sought to promote telehealth innovation for years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. For example, the Children’s Health System of Texas has successfully penetrated the telehealth market in Texas and has plans to expand these services to markets outside of Texas in the near future. The Hospital’s school-based initiative, one of several telehealth services it provides to patients in the community, began in 2013 in just two Dallas-area preschools but already has spread to 57 Dallas-area schools by early 2016 and has plans to continue to expand.
The outlook for telehealth in Texas is positive. During Summer 2016, various telehealth stakeholders including physicians, telehealth industry groups, and insurance companies, met behind closed doors to draft a compromise over how best to deliver healthcare remotely. The TexLa TRC believes these telehealth stakeholders are still working together to find common ground to redraft telehealth language before the Texas legislature meets in January.
 Access to the January 2016 report is available by registering for free with the American Telemedicine Association.