Whiteford plan improving access to telehealth unanimously approved by Michigan House

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Bipartisan plan makes preventative and routine health care more accessible for Michigan patients in COVID-19 era

A bill introduced by state Rep. Mary Whiteford to improve access to health care for Michigan patients via telehealth was approved by the Michigan House of Representatives.

Under current law, telemedicine visits between patients and health care providers must be done in real time. The bipartisan package of bills would change the law to allow patient data in the form of video and images to be stored and forwarded to providers.

“This innovative solution to health care access is invaluable to rural communities like ours, especially as COVID-19 regulations prevent many people from receiving the routine and preventative health care they need,” Whiteford said. “I am proud to have the support of the medical community behind this legislation and I hope to see it sail through the process so we can get people appointments with their doctors from home.”

According to Whiteford, this change will make telehealth possible in more scenarios as doctors will now have the time to thoroughly analyze data and test results and respond to patients at a later time.

Barriers prior to the COVID-19 era included limited access to transportation and lack of available providers in a geographic area, which have both affected patients in Michigan’s rural communities. But now, in the height of the COVID-19 era, many patients are unable to access routine and preventative health care under the executive order, and others are too high-risk to leave their homes. Whiteford said increased use of telemedicine in Michigan is part of the answer.

Other bills in the package:

• Allow Medicaid to pay for telemedicine visits when a patient is at home or in school. Currently, a patient is required to go to a specific health facility to have a telehealth visit covered by Medicaid.
• Allow remote patient monitoring to be covered by Medicaid. This would allow doctors to analyze data gathered by patients using a monitoring device – such as blood sugar, blood pressure or their heart rate –when assessing the health of their patient during a telehealth visit.

House Bills 5412-5416 received unanimous support from the House and now move to be considered by the state Senate.