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Governor Signs Telehealth Streamlining

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill to make it easier for rural patients to utilize telehealth technology. It was one of several health-related bills the governor signed into law last week.

AB 809 by Assembly member Dan Logue (R-Marysville) changes the consent rules around use of telehealth, a technology that allows patients in rural areas to get medical advice and treatment plans from physicians in urban settings. It allows providers to secure consent the first time patients use the technology and removes the requirement to get consent every time a new appointment is made. Previous rules required consent from the originating site, which had the potential to create some logistical problems.

“Reducing barriers to telehealth means reducing cost of treatment,” Logue said.

Streamlining the process could have enormous benefits for rural patients with limited access to providers, Logue said — particularly with the dearth of specialists in rural areas.

“When the nearest specialist is hundreds of miles away, telehealth becomes about more than convenience,” Logue said. “It is about saving lives.”

Patients used to be limited to using telehealth in three areas of medicine — dermatology, psychology and optometry — but that changed with a 2011 Logue bill called the Telehealth Advancement Act.

“One of the greatest benefits we can see from this is the use of home monitoring, which enables providers to monitor their patients remotely and make recommendations,” Logue said. “Patients who have trouble traveling or even getting out of bed are no longer forced to spend money on medical transportation, or move into assisted living facilities just to receive regular monitoring.”

Logue said the uses of telehealth are limitless. “As technology expands, the types of treatment we can do via telehealth expand,” he said, “and it is exciting to see that growth happening.”

Brown approved the Logue bill among a slew of health-related bills he signed in a three-day period last week, Sept. 18-20.

Those included:

  • AB 1819 by Assembly member Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) will ban smoking in a private residence that is used as a licensed family day care home.
  • AB 1967 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) requires the Department of Health Care Services to promptly notify county health directors if DHCS has launched a criminal investigation of a Drug Medi-Cal provider in that county.
  • SB 1161 by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) will require DHCS, when submitting a Drug Medi-Cal federal waiver, to also pursue federal approvals to address the need for greater capacity in both short-term residential treatment facilities and hospital settings for short-term voluntary inpatient detoxification.
  • SB 1339 by Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) is another Drug Medi-Cal law, this one requiring DHCS to treat any not-for-profit providers it designates as a high categorical risk a little differently — making sure criminal background checks and fingerprinting applies to officers and executive director of the organization.
  • SB 1083 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) allows physician assistants to certify disability claims.

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