By Alaa Abdeldaiem
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about new laws that are taking effect, most of them on July 1.
INDIANAPOLIS — Access to medical treatment is about to become more convenient for Indiana residents seeking solutions for simple illnesses.
Starting July 1, House Bill 1263—authored by Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Indianapolis—will grant medical providers and licensed professionals who practice telemedicine the authority to write prescriptions.
Telemedicine is providing healthcare services and clinical information through the use of technology, including videoconferencing. However, physicians still cannot provide a prescription via email, phone calls and instant messaging.
Kirchhofer said telemedicine will be a great benefit to many, including rural populations and senior citizens.
“Before this bill, if you wanted a prescription from a healthcare provider, you had to have an in-person visit,” Kirchhofer said. “This law removes that in-person requirement barrier, which helps people in remote areas or who have transportation issues just use their smartphones and get help. It opens access to services that were very much limited in the past.”
The law applies to any Indiana licensed physician, optometrist, physician assistant with the authority to write prescriptions or advance practice nurse with the authority to write prescriptions.
A telemedicine appointment resembles a typical appointment. The patient must give consent along with their personal information and medical history. The medical provider must introduce themselves and their practice. The medical provider also must discuss with the patient the diagnosis, as well as risks and benefits of treatment options.
Upon writing the prescription, healthcare providers must notify patient’s primary care physicians and update them on the medications prescribed to the patient.
Health care providers can use telemedicine for appointments including immediate care or follow up visits. However, they are not allowed to prescribe a controlled substances, abortion inducing drugs or glasses or contacts.
“We really believed it was time to move forward with this bill and we’re big supporters of it,” Indiana Hospital Association Executive Vice President Brian Tabor said. “There were good questions being raised about how to move forward, and now we’re very excited for patients to have this opportunity to access care in a way that’s more convenient for them.”
While Indiana has been one of 47 states to use of telemedicine, it is late in joining the other 46 in allowing practitioners to write prescriptions. Tabor attributed the delay to the state’s cautious approach and research of various policy options.
“I think that there was some confusion and lack of clarity on what exactly could be done in Indiana,” he said. “It was about looking what others states had done and what the best policies are to make the services available while maintaining the quality of patient safety standards. Then, we could move forward with a law that makes it clear that it can happen in Indiana and this is the right way to do it. In some ways, it was definitely smart to be cautious.”
Tabor explained that, while the bill is well constructed, changes to the legislation would likely take place overtime.
Ensuring adequate and consistent payment, providing proper licensing and implementing the proper regulations are factors Tabor said will be considered even after the law takes effect.
“The medical licensing board is really just beginning to process the rules,” Tabor said. “When these rules are actually implemented, we want to make sure that they don’t limit the accessibility that we hope is provided under the legislation and that they also retain the assurance of quality care. These are that we’ll be looking to work on as we move forward.”
Alaa Abdeldaiem is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.