The Uniform Telehealth Act was approved at July’s 131st Annual Meeting of the Uniform Law Commission (ULC). The ULC consists of lawyers in the US states and territories who meet to propose laws to address common issues. The new Uniform Telehealth Act was written to suggest a path forward for practitioners seeking to work over state lines while maintaining existing practitioner standards of care. The telehealth law suggests a registration process allowing out-of-state providers to deliver telehealth services in states that have also adopted the ULC’s proposed act.
In many ways, this new model act has similarities to other model acts proposed by various behavioral health regulatory associations. It would need to be adopted by individual boards by states or territories before affording additional rights to professionals.
Although some behavioral professional licensing boards have adopted similar inter-jurisdictional telehealth model acts (see Telemedicine Across State Lines Post-Pandemic for details), the publication of the ULC act signals more widespread telehealth adoption as the norm. Many state licensing boards are still on the sidelines, even though one or more boards within the same state may have accepted a model act for their profession. For example, several psychological boards have adopted the PsyPACT model act, but many states, such as California, have not yet done so. Considering that each profession can have a different board in each state, none of whom are required to follow the laws of that profession’s board in other states, after weighing the pros and cons.
Concerns of States Not Yet Approving Model Acts for Interjurisdictional Practice
Some of the most common concerns with inter-jurisdictional practice involve disagreements about the level of oversight to be exercised with out-of-state providers. Another is the extent to which the model act’s language allows for flexibility in requirements for adoption by individual states. Some model acts are not flexible at all.
The Uniform Telehealth Act addresses both issues by allowing for flexibility in the language used. In general, the ULC Act offers a way for stakeholders and states to improve their understanding of the main issues. It provides an additional opportunity for in-depth discussion as states envision a post-pandemic telehealth policy landscape.
Although membership is required to access the ULC’s Uniform Telehealth Act Toolkit and other resources offered by ULC, a few of the key tenants of the ULC Uniform Telehealth Act are listed below. They are excerpted from the Center for Connected Health Policy:
- Defining telehealth means the use of synchronous or asynchronous telecommunication technology by a practitioner to provide health care to a patient at a different physical location than the practitioner
- Authorizing a practitioner-patient relationship to be established through telehealth
- Clarifying that the provision of telehealth occurs at the location of the patient
- Applying professional practice standards applicable to the delivery of in-person services to telehealth services, including those related to prescribing, consent, and privacy
- Prohibiting boards from applying different practice standards to telehealth or limiting telehealth technologies
- Allowing out-of-state licensed/certified/member of state compact providers to register with the applicable in-state board to deliver telehealth services to in-state patients
The Act’s registration process includes the following requirements:
- The provider has not been recently subject to a board disciplinary action
- Provider agrees to in-state disciplinary jurisdiction if necessary
- The provider has applicable professional liability insurance
- The provider submits a completed application and registration fee as implemented by a board
- A provider would not be allowed to open an office within the state to provide in-person care.
The Future of Telehealth Laws
The future is yet to be seen for adopting the ULC’s Uniform Telehealth Act. As a legislative issue, however, inter-jurisdictional telehealth is already a reality for many US providers. Combined with the recently proposed CMS 2023 reimbursement for LMFTs, LPCs, Addiction Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers & Others, the ramifications of these shifts in US legislative policy promise continued growth in telebehavioral health into the future.
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