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The Doctor Will See You Now... Online
Updated June 13, 2016 7:06 AM | Filed under: Health
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(INDIANAPOLIS) - Access to medical treatment is about to become more convenient for Indiana residents seeking solutions for simple illnesses.

Alaa Abdeldaiem of The reports that, 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 or 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 health care 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 or advance practice nurse with the authority to write prescriptions.

A telemedicine appointment resembles a typical appointment. The patient must give consent along with 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, health care providers must notify the patient's primary care physicians and update them on the medications prescribed to the patient.

Health care providers can use telemedicine for immediate care or follow-up visits. However, they are not allowed to prescribe a controlled substance, 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 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 (at) what other 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 said though the bill is well constructed, changes to the legislation will likely take place over time.

Ensuring adequate and consistent payment, providing proper licensing and implementing 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."

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