The Florida Legislature increases medical accessibility with telehealth bill passage

by | Mar 11, 2022


 

Florida Legislature on Friday unanimously passed SB 312, a bill that would authorize physicians to prescribe certain drugs and medications through telehealth communication appointments, making medical care more accessible for older Floridians.

The bill expands the ability of Florida doctors to prescribe controlled substances, including anabolic steroids and barbiturates, via online consultations, aiming to ease accessibility to medicine for those of the elderly population that may have trouble reaching physical appointments on their own. In the opposite chamber, a companion bill similarly passed through a multitude of committees with ease.

“HB 17 allows physicians to prescribe schedule 3, 4, and 5 controlled substances via telehealth consultations. This bill was unanimously passed on the House floor last year. We saw during the pandemic through the Governor’s executive order how well telehealth works,” said Rep. Tom Fabriciom, composer of the House bill. “It saves time for both patients and physicians, it increases the likelihood of patients keeping their appointments, and maintaining their medication regimens.”

Prior to the legislative action, Florida law prohibited doctors from controlled substance prescriptions through telehealth consultations, barring its necessity for the treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders, inpatients at hospitals, and patients in hospice care or nursing home facilities.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, telehealth has been a blessing for many of my patients. It allows me to help my patients in nearly the same way I can when I see them in person; evaluating their symptoms, providing the care they need,” said Mayo Clinic Senior Resident Dr. Kamal Shair. “Allowing physicians like myself to be able to prescribe medications via telecommunication would help ease the accessibility for life-saving medications. In short, I urge you to pass this proposed bill.”

In a February interview with The Capitolist, Florida Hospital Association CEO Mary Mayhew lauded the lasting effects that telehealth implementation could have on Florida’s medical industry.

“Access to early intervention and care that can be managed successfully through a telehealth visit or remote monitoring, that could certainly reduce preventable use of the emergency department,” Mayhew said. “Part of the challenge, of course, is when people can’t get access to care, or they delay getting access to care and their conditions worsen, which requires preventable emergency department care.”

Mayhew cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for telehealth’s surge in usage not just within the state, but in the nation as a whole, easing the burden of in-patient care staff amid backed-up hospitals and an ongoing nursing shortage.

“We’re thrilled that one of the silver linings over the last two years has been the skyrocketing of telehealth availability,” said Mayhew.

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