Currently, Arkansas has the most restrictive laws in the country involving access to telemedicine. The biggest change from Arkansas’s current law in the legislation voted on today is policy regulating the “originating site” of telemedicine usage.
State Rep. Deborah Ferguson, the lead sponsor of the House legislation, explained the change on the House floor this afternoon:
The originating site in the bill two years ago had to be where a health care provider was. This originating site opens it up to where the patient is. What that will do for these companies like J.B. Hunt is they’ll contract with a telemedicine company and then that person can access healthcare through telemedicine wherever they may be.
With this change, 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, more Arkansans dealing with routine health complications will now be able to make a phone call to a telemedicine provider rather than having to make an in-person visit to a doctor or emergency room.
This will improve access to care in Arkansas, a state with a severe doctor shortage. It will also reduce costly emergency room visits–a goal of many lawmakers.
“The Telemedicine Act” will head to Gov. Asa Hutchinson after both pieces of legislation each pass both the House and Senate. Hutchinson said in a letter to the Arkansas State Medical Board last year regarding telemedicine that “it is important that we increase access to care for Arkansans by fully taking advantage of technological innovations.”
A spokesman for Gov. Hutchinson did not respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon. We’ll update this post when a response is received.