It wasn’t quite the game-changing score everyone was hoping for, but when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 23 in late June, it definitely helped move the telehealth ball down the field. The new bill, which takes effect January 1, 2020, essentially removes any potential legal barriers to telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) by authorizing their voluntary use.

The bill provides added benefit by defining that telehealth can be synchronous or asynchronous, which clears the way for data to be gathered at one time and analyzed later, and enabling ePrescription of certain controlled substances rather than requiring an office visit and/or paper prescription.

Any provider or health plan that may have hesitated in offering telehealth to its patients/members because approval wasn’t explicitly spelled out need no longer worry. There is a now a clear path forward.

A good start; but there is still a lot of ground left to be gained since HB 23 doesn’t mandate that health plans actually pay for the implementation of telehealth and RPM technologies. It just says they can use them and negotiate payments

Of course, we all know that reimbursement, or more aptly, a lack of it, has been one of the most significant barriers to the widespread adoption of telehealth and RPM – despite all the proof of the difference it can make, especially with the 5% of patients/members who account for 50% of the cost of healthcare.

What’s curious is that you would think Florida would be the first in line to allow/mandate telehealth since much of its demonstrated value to date has been around managing chronic conditions more effectively.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 80% of older adult Americans have at least one chronic condition, and 77% have two. When you consider that Florida has the highest percentage of residents who are senior citizens (nearly 20%) in the country, and is second only to California for the total number of residents 65 or older at 4.1 million, telehealth and RPM just seem like a natural fit.

Why wouldn’t you want to do all you could to encourage its use and help bring down the cost of caring for Florida residents who have chronic conditions? Nationally, that cost has been listed at $1.1 trillion (with a T) in direct costs and $3.7 trillion when you factor in productivity; Florida is certainly contributing its fair share.

If that isn’t enough to spur action, how about the political benefits of improving the health outcomes of voters in the state? That should count for something.

So while HB 23 is a good thing, it’s not the end game. There is still much more to be done. Here’s hoping the Florida legislature recognizes the opportunity and moves to mandate reimbursement for telehealth and RPM in the near future. 

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