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Washington State Enacts New Telemedicine Advancement Law

In an exciting decision benefiting Washingtonians and the organizations that provide them health care, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Telemedicine Advancement Law on March 29, making Washington a more telemedicine-friendly state.

This new law, SB 6519, passed unanimously in the Washington State Senate and overwhelmingly in the state House of Representatives and takes a variety of steps to make telemedicine safe and accessible to consumers throughout the state. It establishes a collaborative of legislators, healthcare professionals and representatives from universities, hospitals and insurance carriers for the advancement of telemedicine.

This group, which will meet on July 1, will develop recommendations to improve reimbursement and access to telemedicine services and identify telemedicine best practices and guidelines. The collaborative will also discuss whether or not a “technical assistance center” should be established to support providers who are implementing or expanding telemedicine services.

The New Telemedicine Advancement Law Improvements

Additionally, the law makes it easier for consumers to receive telemedicine care from home by expanding eligible originating sites in Washington’s existing telemedicine parity law (effective Jan. 1, 2017) to include consumers’ homes. The original telemedicine parity law had defined eligible “originating sites” as hospitals, rural health clinics, FQHCs, physicians’ offices or nursing homes. By expanding the list of originating sites to include homes, the revision increases consumer access to telemedicine services, particularly for individuals who live in rural areas or are homebound.

The new law also promotes the delivery of safe and effective telemedicine services in a manner consistent with “generally accepted health care practices and standards” while maintaining consumer privacy and security. If telemedicine services do not meet these standards of care, health plans may deny coverage.

What Does This Mean for Telepsychiatry?

Because telepsychiatry is a form of telemedicine, the Telemedicine Advancement Law makes behavioral health care more accessible to consumers across Washington State. Washingtonians will soon have increased access to behavioral health providers, including child and adolescent psychiatrists, and they will be eligible to see these providers from the convenience of their own homes.

With these telemedicine-friendly changes, organizations in Washington that already offer telepsychiatry services will be able to do so more easily and organizations that do not can more easily implement such services. This ultimately benefits consumers, giving them more choice, flexibility and convenience in the care they receive.

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