Re: Texas Medical Board’s ruling on telemedicine

Dear Editor,

April 16, 2015

I am a family physician practicing rural medicine in Eagle Lake, Texas.

I believe the TMB got it right. Last week, the Texas Medical Board adopted rules on telemedicine that will protect patients and hold physicians responsible and accountable to the care they provide.

While various headlines have called these new rules a restriction on telemedicine that will limit care to rural and under-served patients, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The newly adopted rules will enable physicians to diagnose problems or prescribe drugs to a patient by phone or video as long as they have an existing patient-physician relationship. This allows physicians to provide care for their patients and in turn, those patients will have access to their physician if a complication arises, follow-up care is required, or a consultation with specialists is needed.

The rules also allow patients to receive care through telemedicine at places like a clinic, pharmacy, school clinic, or fire department as long as a health care provider – like a nurse, pharmacist, or emergency medical technician – is present.

What the rules do not allow is for a physician or group of health care providers to use exchanges through e-mail, electronic text, chat discussions, or telephonic conversation to establish a doctor-patient relationship.

Done correctly, telemedicine can be a wonderful tool to complement local health care efforts and expand access to care.

I commend the Texas Medical Board for fulfilling its mission to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Texas.

Dr. Russell Thomas, Jr.
A family physician practicing rural medicine
Eagle Lake,
Texas