Florida Senate passes telehealth bill that allows providers to use telephones to deliver care
Manny Diaz Jr. Image via Colin Hackley.

Should Florida lawmakers allow telephones for telehealth?

A bill that updates Florida’s telehealth laws to allow the use of telephones cleared the Senate unanimously Thursday.

Sponsored by Senate Health Policy Committee Chairman Sen Manny Diaz, the measure (SB 312) strikes the prohibition in current law that bans the use of “audio only” devices for telehealth.

Moreover, the bill also would allow physicians to renew prescriptions for Schedule III, IV or V controlled substances via telehealth, which cannot be done under Florida’s current telehealth statutes.

After years of debate, the Legislature in 2019 approved the use of telehealth for Florida-licensed physicians, practitioners licensed under a multistate health care licensure compact of which Florida is a member, and out-of-state health care providers who register with the state.

Fearful of potential abuse, lawmakers had taken a limited approach in allowing providers to use telehealth to prescribe medicines, permitting it only for psychiatric patients, hospice patients, hospital inpatients and nursing home residents.

Schedule III substances have a potential for abuse but are currently accepted for medical use in the United States. Schedule IV substances include benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Schedule V substances include mixtures of substances that can contain small quantities of opiates, narcotics, or stimulants.

The Senate measure is similar, but not identical to its House counterpart ( HB 17) filed by Rep. Tom Fabricio. The difference between the proposals is the Senate bill strikes the current ban in law that prevents “audio only” devices from being used for telehealth.

HB 17 has cleared all its committees of reference and is ready for the House floor.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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