By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
Louisiana could do more to improve telehealth policies in the wake of the pandemic, according to a new report.
The Reason Foundation, Cicero Institute, and Pioneer Institute collaborated on a report released Wednesday titled “State Policy Agenda for Telehealth Innovation” that grades states’ telehealth policies and outlines how each can modernize and upgrade telehealth laws without stifling future advancements.
The report is a call to action for lawmakers to make permanent temporary regulatory flexibilities around telehealth adopted by many states during the pandemic, and it focuses on key areas where states can embrace telehealth to expand patient access to care.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients discovered and utilized a variety of telehealth options that offer flexible, affordable, and high-quality care, and those options shouldn’t be taken away,” said Vittorio Nastasi, policy analyst at Reason Foundation and co-author of the report. “States need to improve their laws so patients have as many quality care options as possible and the future health care system can become more patient-centric.”
Areas examined in the report include whether patients can access all forms of telehealth, whether they can start a telehealth relationship by any mode, whether state laws or regulations prevent patients from accessing care in other states, and whether state laws allow providers to practice at the full scope of their license.
Researchers graded states using a green, yellow and red system, with green the best and red the worst.
The study rated Louisiana green for allowing patients to access all forms of telehealth, which means the state allows for more than live video and uses a “modality-neutral” definition of telehealth that allows for audio-video, store and forward, or remote patient monitoring.
The state received a yellow rating for allowing patients to start a telehealth relationship by any mode, because Louisiana law or regulations “suggest a standard of care that would not allow starting a telehealth relationship over an asynchronous mode,” such as text message, rather than a video call or in-person visit.
Louisiana was also rated yellow for state laws that prevent patients from accessing care in other states. The rating means the state “has a clear, straightforward, predictable registration or licensing process but it only applies to physicians, or certain kinds of providers, or only for surrounding states.”
In the final category, researchers rated Louisiana red for whether nurse practitioners are allowed to practice at the full scope of their license, instead of requiring a doctor to provide oversight.
In Louisiana, “an NP can never practice independently without a collaborative practice agreement or supervision,” the report read.
The report offers several suggestions for Louisiana lawmakers. The state could “make it clear that a patient-provider relationship can start over any mode which will change Board of Medical Examiners regulations that raise doubt that a patent can start a relationship by asynchronous telemedicine,” researchers wrote.
The report also suggests the state “streamline Board of Medical Examiners special telemedicine licenses, and pass an easy registration or reciprocity law for all providers,” and grant NPs the authority to practice independently.