New Jersey Significantly Expands Telemedicine
Pursuant to Senate Bill 291 (S291), approved on July 21, 2017, New Jersey has expanded the potential for physicians expand their practices through telemedicine. Engaging in this practice of remote, virtual healthcare allows providers to reach more patients and develop their practice by providing health care services, such as primary and specialty care and remote patient monitoring, via videoconference rather than requiring all patients to travel to an office or hospital. However, providers engaging in telemedicine must ensure their compliance with state and federal law, including professional board regulations, which enumerate requirements for the practice of medicine.
To properly engage in telehealth, New Jersey’s legislation requires that physicians and patients are connected through an interactive channel that allows real-time audio and visual communication. However, the bill does not require physicians or patients to be located at designated sites in order to engage in the encounter. Rather, it explicitly prevents the State Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare programs from imposing such “sitting” requirements as a condition of reimbursement. This is a distinction from Medicare reimbursement guidelines, which do impose site restrictions on the physician and patient. The more liberal treatment of sitting requirements indicates New Jersey’s favorable treatment of the still-developing telehealth modality.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, physicians must remain cognizant of their ongoing duty to meet the standard of care when treating patients using telemedicine and of the potential for professional discipline that may result from the limitations of these encounters. Practitioners will continue to be subject to the same standards of care and rules of practice as are applicable to traditional in-person practice, and the use of telemedicine will not diminish any existing professional duty or responsibility. Providers are advised to review their malpractice insurance to make sure that telemedicine encounters are covered and whether their carrier has specific requirements for engaging in telemedicine.
S291 modifies a number of laws as they relate to the provision of medical care to patients through the use of telemedicine. New Jersey’s expansion of telehealth, and favorable reimbursement guidelines, creates significant opportunity for physicians and other health care providers to develop their business models to include this service in order to retain patients and offer a more convenient, cost effective means of treatment. If you or your practice is interested in incorporating a telemedicine model into your business, contact Frier Levitt for assistance.