June 28, 2017

Telemedicine industry expects boost from new Texas law

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, pictured when he was Texas Attorney General in Oct 2012
By Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The multimillion-dollar telemedicine industry is poised for a lucrative run across Texas now that some of the toughest restrictions in the nation have finally been lifted by the state.

A new law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who has championed the issue, opens a huge market that could potentially connect millions of Texans to doctors who can now diagnose patients by video chat.

This is welcome news in a state where elbow room is measured in the hundreds of miles and doctor shortages are chronic. Texas ranks near the bottom nationally in per-capita access to a physician, and 35 counties have no doctor at all. About 1.8 million Texans live in a county with no obstetrician-gynecologist.

“It is a huge step forward, a real positive for Texas,” said Dr. Nancy Dickey, executive director of the Rural and Community Health Institute at Texas A&M University. She recently co-authored a report about the health crisis facing rural Texans amid hospital closings and other barriers to access.

Texas was one of the last holdouts in the rapidly evolving world of virtual medicine by requiring an in-patient visit with a doctor before allowing any video diagnosis.

That requirement was at the heart of a bitter, six-year legal battle […]

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