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Lawmakers to consider expanding telemedicine

The doctors at Miami Children’s Hospital use advanced communications technology to diagnose sick children in Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Helping young patients in remote parts of Florida or other states, however, is not so easy.

For one, insurance companies in Florida aren’t required to reimburse doctors for telemedicine services, meaning physicians aren’t guaranteed payment for Web-based consultations or diagnostic test interpretations. What’s more, many doctors don’t have the licenses to practice in other states or the credentials to practice at other hospitals.

“Because of the regulatory limitations, it is easier for me to care for a child in Colombia than it is for me to care for a child at Broward General,” said Dr. Jacques Orces, the chief medical information officer at Miami Children’s.

The Florida Legislature wants to change that.

Over the next few weeks, state lawmakers will consider creating statewide standards for telemedicine. They will also debate establishing reimbursement requirements, as well as a system for registering out-of-state telemedicine providers in Florida.

“Our goal is to create fertile ground for this kind of technology to be used,” said state Rep. Jose Oliva, a Miami Republican who chairs the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation.

The discussion is taking place as the Legislature shifts its focus from Medicaid expansion, which observers consider unlikely in an election year, to less controversial healthcare issues like addressing a shortage of primary care physicians.

Read more here.

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