Legislation improving access to telemedicine in Arkansas passed out of the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee today.
Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, the sponsor of the legislation, said in committee:
What’s changed from that 2015 bill? The changes are that we’ve expanded [the originating site] from clinical settings to wherever the patient is located. That was a very big deal. That was one of the things that people who were so patient looked forward to. Many have been looking forward to the time where we opened up the originating site to where the patient is.
The telemedicine definition has also changed. It’s expanded to include all types of electronic information and communication technology. That means you can even use your iPhone, so this is quite the expansion from what we had in the first telemedicine bill.
The “originating site” is where the patient is when he receives a medical service. Under the 2015 law, an “originating site” to use telemedicine services must be in a medical facility.
Now that the “originating site” language has greatly expanded, that means Arkansas will be more in step with the rest of the country when it comes to state telemedicine policy — and geography will be less of a barrier when seeking medical care. Indeed, these telemedicine services are already available in every other state in the nation besides Arkansas.
Lawmakers talk often about reducing costly emergency room visits. Allowing Arkansans to make a phone call to a telemedicine company — instead of having to go the emergency room — seems like a common sense idea to accomplish this goal.
We hope this idea gets a fair hearing when it comes before the Senate later this week or early next week.
You can read the text of SB 146 here.