Two Florida Republicans want to change telehealth practices in the state — a move that would update remote medicine laws approved just two years ago.
A new bill (HB 247), filed last week by freshmen Reps. Tom Fabricio and Mike Giallombardo, would allow prescribers to prescribe controlled substances to patients during telehealth visits. That includes prescriptions for treating psychiatric disorders, inpatient treatment at licensed medical facilities, treatment for patients in hospice care and treatment for nursing home residents.
The bill would also remove language preventing “audio only telephone calls” from being used for telehealth appointments. Current statutes, which were approved in 2019, do not consider phone calls, emails and “facsimile transmissions” to be acceptable media for telehealth visits.
An identical bill (SB 660) was also filed last week by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz. If approved the measures would go into effect July 1.
The use of telehealth has exploded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has gripped the country for the last 10 months and led to the deaths of nearly 25,000 Floridians, according to state data.
Nationwide, there were 50% more telehealth visits in the first three months of last year than the same period in 2019, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Expanding telehealth has also been a goal of Florida officials in recent months. In September, the state committed $2 million from the federal CARES Act to bolstering telehealth mental health care services at schools in 18 counties.
The 2021 Legislative Session begins March 2.