FTC closes its investigation of Texas Medical Board on telehealth

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has closed its inquiry of whether the Texas Medical Board violated federal antitrust law by adopting rules restricting the practice of telemedicine in the Lone Star state.

The FTC dropped its probe after Texas recently enacted a latest law that overrides the board’s restrictive telehealth regulations. Passed previous month by the state legislature and signed by Governor Greg Abbott, the law eradicates the requiremnet for an in-person consultation to develop a physician-patient relationship prior to providing telemedicine services.

Particularly, the law permits doctors to establish a relationship with a new patient through a virtual visit.

In a written statement, FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen commended Abbott and the Texas state legislature for expanding access to healthcare services for Texans through telehealth and telemedicine, and for dealing the competitive concerns raised by the previous rules of Texas Medical Board.

“I’ve long advocated for the expansion of telemedicine and telehealth options that enhance competition and benefit consumers, while still searing public health and safety,” said Ohlhausen.

Under the Texas law, a practitioner is allowed to use:

  • Technology that gives synchronous audiovisual interaction between the practitioner and the patient.
  • Asynchronous store and forward technology, involving technology that allows telephonic only interaction as long as the practitioner uses certain specified clinical information.
  • Clinically relevant photographic or video images, involving diagnostic images.
  • Patient’s relevant medical records, like the relevant medical history, laboratory and pathology results and prescription histories.
  • Another form of audiovisual telecommunication technology that enables the practitioner to comply with the standard of care

The enactment of the law ends a legal battle against the Texas Medical Board spearheaded by telehealth vendor Teladoc, which sued the board alleging—among other accusations—that its regulations violated antitrust law and suppressed provider competition by establishing an unimportant obstacle for telemedicine. The litigation was twice stayed to permit the opportunity for an out-for-court settlement to be worked out.

“Teladoc undertook the responsibility to preserve access to telemedicine in Texas more than 6 years ago, and we’re gratified to have been the telehealth company invited to collaborate with the Texas legislature and others in the state to accomplish this laudable goal,” claimed Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic. “Our commitment to the state and its citizens has never wavered, and we now look forward to reactivating our industry-leading video capabilities and ending our legal dispute in the state of Texas.”

 

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