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Telemedicine in Oregon: An overview of SB 232 and its impact

Here’s how the passing of SB 232 represents a significant stride forward in telemedicine practice in Oregon, and how it can impact other states to adopt the same practice.

image of two people reading through Oregon's sb 232 and its impact on improving telehealth accessibility

At A Glance

  • The passage of SB 232 enhances access to telemedicine in Oregon, born from necessities like the COVID-19 pandemic, technological advancements, and increased patient and provider mobility
  • Provisions are made for out-of-state physicians or physician assistants (PAs) to provide care to those temporarily in Oregon and to give intermittent follow-up care to Oregon residents
  • From the patients’ perspective, they can now access trusted out-of-state physicians while in Oregon, ensuring continuous medical care, especially for those requiring intermittent follow-ups from specialists
  • For providers, the legislation permits out-of-state doctors and PAs to serve their patients even if they travel or relocate to Oregon

The passage of Senate Bill 232 (SB 232) increases access to telemedicine for those who need it in Oregon. The bill is a significant development in telemedicine within the state of Oregon. Born out of a necessity underscored by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, technological advances, and increased mobility of patients and healthcare providers, this bill plays a pivotal role in streamlining telemedicine regulations.

Nationally, providers will now have the ability to provide care to their patients even if their patient travels or moves to the state of Oregan. 

Purpose of SB 232 

The core objective of SB 232 is to infuse greater flexibility into the healthcare delivery system. By recognizing the ever-evolving dynamics of patient-provider interaction, this legislation ensures the continuity of care for patients across state borders through telemedicine. 

It fortifies the idea that geographical boundaries shouldn’t limit healthcare and aims to make quality healthcare more accessible to people, regardless of location.

Understanding telemedicine 

Before delving further into the specifics of SB 232, it is crucial to grasp what telemedicine is and why it is transformative. At its core, telemedicine is delivering healthcare services at a distance. These services can involve consultations, diagnoses, treatment plans, and follow-ups occurring remotely.

Telemedicine operates on the principle of overcoming geographical barriers, making healthcare accessible to individuals wherever they are. This mode of delivery is especially beneficial to patients: 

  • Living in remote areas
  • That are older
  • With mobility issues
  • Seeking specialized care unavailable within a reasonable distance
Telemedicine operates on the principle of overcoming geographical barriers, making healthcare accessible to individuals wherever they are. ”

There are many benefits to telemedicine. Apart from making healthcare more accessible, it also reduces the time and cost of travel for patients and healthcare providers. Furthermore, it facilitates continuity of care and enables patients to receive healthcare services within the comfort of their homes. During the recent pandemic, telemedicine was critical in ensuring healthcare delivery while minimizing the risk of virus transmission.

Of course, telemedicine is only suitable for delivering some forms of healthcare. For example, hospitals will always be the best place for emergency surgery. However, telemedicine can meet many less acute healthcare needs from afar.

Key changes in SB 232 

SB 232 introduces crucial amendments to the Oregon Medical Board's telemedicine regulations, reshaping the telemedicine landscape in the state. The 4 key changes are:

  1. The "practice of medicine" now occurs where the patient is located, challenging the traditional concept of the doctor's office.
  2. The provision for out-of-state physicians or physician assistants (PAs) is extended to offer care to individuals temporarily residing in Oregon, whether in the state, for work, education, or vacation. This provision ensures that continuity of care isn't disrupted due to the patient's temporary change in location.
  3. Out-of-state physicians or PAs can now provide temporary or intermittent follow-up care to people living in Oregon, adding another layer of flexibility to patient care.
  4. Oregon Medical Board is granted rulemaking authority to implement and enforce this section, enhancing the Board's capacity to regulate telemedicine practices effectively.

How the changes affect patients and providers 

From a patient's perspective, SB 232 fosters an environment where healthcare providers can meet their medical needs with increased convenience and continuity. Patients can now temporarily access their trusted out-of-state physicians while in Oregon, ensuring uninterrupted medical care. For those needing follow-up care from an out-of-state specialist, the new legislation offers a solution that allows them to receive intermittent care as required.

For providers, the new legislation allows out-of-state physicians and PAs to continue serving their patients even when they relocate or travel to Oregon. Moreover, it underlines the expectation that physicians deliver telemedicine services with the same standards of care as in-person visits, reinforcing the importance of maintaining high-quality care across all service platforms.

Guidelines for telemedicine practice 

The Oregon Medical Board's Telemedicine Statement of Philosophy offers a comprehensive guide for telemedicine practices. It emphasizes the significance of maintaining a robust provider-patient relationship and obtaining informed consent at each telemedicine encounter. It also underlines the need to document the relevant clinical history and ensure patient care continuity.

The statement reiterates the legal obligation of physicians to protect patient confidentiality and comply with federal and state laws concerning medical and health information privacy, including the Health Insurance and Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The impact of telemedicine in Oregon

The passing of SB 232 represents a significant stride forward in telemedicine practice in Oregon. By facilitating the continuity of care and fostering flexibility in healthcare delivery, the bill sets the tone for the future of telemedicine in the state. 

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, SB 232 stands as an example of the adaptability and responsiveness of medical regulation in meeting patients' needs. In the future, we can anticipate other states to adopt this same practice to enhance the continuity of care and minimize disruptions in patient care. 

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Amber Walker, healthcare administration entrepreneur

Amber Walker, MHA, CPC-I, is a healthcare administration entrepreneur and the CEO of Creare Solutions. She has vast experience in partnering with mental health providers to ensure they have support managing the revenue cycle aspect of running a practice.

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