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A bill that would allow health care providers to offer a diagnosis over the phone to patients they have never seen in person failed to clear a House committee on Thursday.

House Bill 1220 would amend a 2017 law requiring a professional relationship to be established through more than just an audio-only phone call before a provider can treat a patient using telemedicine.

Sponsored by Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, the bill would allow the relationship to be established over a voice call as long as the provider has access to the patient's "medical history."

Jason Tibbels, vice president of health services at Dallas-based Teladoc, said the change would allow easier access to telemedicine for Arkansans in areas lacking the high-speed Internet connection needed for the video examination required by the current law.

"There's no reason that your ZIP code should determine your health outcome," Tibbels said.

Claudia Duck Tucker, the company's vice president for government affairs, said the company offers health services over the phone through employer health plans covering more than 250,000 Arkansans.

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David Wroten, executive vice president of the Arkansas Medical Society, said broadband Internet access isn't needed to make a video phone call.

"Any of y'all use FaceTime?" he asked, referring to Apple's video phone call application, after pulling out his smartphone.

Holding up the phone, he added, "This is two-way audio visual."

Wroten said the 2017 law was crafted to protect patients while accommodating employers such as J.B. Hunt who offer phone-based services to their employees.

Previously, a patient was required to be at a doctor's office or other health care facility at the time of the initial visit establishing the physician-patient relationship.

Wroten noted that no provider groups or businesses other than Teladoc were testifying in support of HB1220.

"This is strictly coming from one vendor," Wroten said.

The bill fell three votes short of the 11 needed to clear the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. Eleven members voted against it and one was not at the hearing.

A Section on 02/22/2019

Print Headline: Phone-in diagnosis bill halted by panel


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  • Popsmith
    February 22, 2019 at 10:48 a.m.

    Does this mean I won't be able to get my medical marijuana prescription just by calling some quack?

  • Foghorn
    February 22, 2019 at 1:20 p.m.

    Telemedicine is crucial to bringing down the cost of healthcare, esp in rural areas. Our ledge is clearly too obtuse to recognize that. Maybe this bill is not the one to pass, but this is something they need to look closely - and OBJECTIVELY - into moving forward. Knuckle dragging neanderthals.