ERIC Fights for Technology Neutral Telehealth Provisions in Maryland

ERIC is urging both the Maryland House Committee on Health and Government Operations and the Maryland Senate Committee on Education, Health, and Welfare to vote favorably on two bills that would define telehealth in a technology neutral way.

S.B. 402 and H.B. 448, have been cross-filed to clarify the state’s technology neutral policy on telehealth and reinforce the legislature’s authority on this important issue. The bills were crafted after the Maryland Board of Physicians passed a rule in July of last year to remove the technology neutral approach and require both video and audio for an initial telehealth visit.

S.B 402 is being heard in the Senate this upcoming Thursday, February 13; H.B. 448 will be heard on Tuesday, February 18 in the House.

What’s in the bills?

Under the July 2019 rule passed by the Maryland Board of Physicians, telehealth interactions are mandated to use both video and audio for the initial visit. S.B. 402 and H.B. 488 would remove that requirement and allow for video and/or audio to be used on the first visit.

What’s in ERIC’s testimony?

ERIC supports both bills, including the provisions that define telehealth in a technology-neutral way. ERIC champions technology neutral requirements in telemedicine legislation and regulations because restrictive requirements create a barrier to access.

We believe restrictive technology requirements only serve to prevent new forms of telemedicine technology from being quickly implemented. Patients should not be prevented from using telemedicine solely because they lack the capability to communicate with a provider via video.

State of Play

Overall, the Maryland legislature is frustrated by the actions of the Maryland Board of Physicians to establish a regulation overturning the technology neutral rule. Currently, there is immense support for the two bills from key state hospitals groups, nursing groups, patient advocacy groups, and telehealth groups. Our allies on the ground are working to garner more support before the hearings.

Opposition to the bill is from select medical boards and associations who wish to establish an amendment mandating that telehealth encounters must use both audio and video during a visit where treatment decisions are being made about a new patient.

ERIC will continue to work with Maryland lawmakers and our allies in the state to support policy that prevents a growing patchwork of state telehealth laws.

Article by Carly Sternberg, Health Policy Associate