Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is signing bills that expand the use of telemedicine into law.
The legislation was passed in the General Assembly before the coronavirus outbreak led to executive orders that resulted in current restrictions on businesses, the closure of schools and the most recent stay-at-home order.
Last week, Hogan signed an executive order that would permit health care providers to give medical advice and prescribe medications via email. Unlike the legislation Hogan’s signing, the executive order would expire once the state of emergency is no longer in effect.
One of the bills Hogan is signing expands the list of doctors and practitioners who can make use of telehealth platforms, and it allows evaluations to be done in real time. It also allows for a physician to perform an evaluation after data is collected via a telehealth meeting.
When a legislative panel heard the bill in February, Alex Nason, Director of IT at Frederick Health Hospital, explained how in 2017, the hospital was “slammed with the flu.” He said the emergency department and its urgent care centers felt the effects of a heavy patient load.
Nason said telehealth was settled on as a solution to “overcome some of the access and geographic issues as well as the resource issues.”
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Another bill Hogan is signing allows mental health providers to use telehealth to deliver services directly to a patient in their home.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Steve Hershey, whose district includes Kent County, said at a hearing during the legislative session that the need for the bill became clear when he was giving Senate President Bill Ferguson — whose district is in Baltimore — a tour of his home district on the Eastern Shore.
Hershey said as the two traveled in Kent County, they talked about the distance residents have to travel for care.
“In rural areas, sometimes transportation is the biggest roadblock to get the appropriate level of care,” said Hershey.
The measure enables telehealth to be accessible across the state, including in urban areas.
The bills being signed were also sponsored by Dels. Sandy Rosenberg and Emily Shetty and Sens. Cheryl Kagan and Clarence Lam.