More patient-centered health care arrives in Washington state

Jul 30, 2021

It's a good week for telemedicine. On July 25, some of our favorite ideas that encourage patient-centered health care were implemented. The pandemic gave Washington state lawmakers — and the rest of us — an increased awareness of the opportunities that telemedicine can provide, and the Legislature passed helpful telehealth laws this year.

Those laws included allowing physician-to-physician consultation across state lines and making telemedicine visits reimbursable. In Covid times, these commonsensical ideas advocated by Washington Policy Center and others were tried, proved themselves useful and received bipartisan support. 

SSB 5423 allows a “licensed out-of-state practitioner to consult through telemedicine with a practitioner licensed in Washington State regarding the diagnosis or treatment of a patient within Washington State.” ESHB 1196 expanded telemedicine reimbursement to include audio-only telemedicine, that is, patients talking to doctors by phone. This will help people living in rural areas, people with limited transportation or mobility and people who find talking on the phone to a doctor preferable to online services. 

The Washington State Hospital Association also backed these ideas and wrote in a recent bulletin, “Telemedicine in audio-visual and audio-only modalities are important tools for patients to access care across the state.” 

Senseless regulation limiting access to patient-centered health care is hazardous to our health. I'm glad quality care will be able to reach patients in multiple forms when it is sought.