House Bill 160
151st General Assembly (Present)
Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLES 18 AND 24 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO PRESERVING TELEHEALTH AND ADOPTING THE INTERSTATE MEDICAL LICENSURE COMPACT.
This Act, known as the Telehealth Access Preservation and Modernization Act of 2021, continues and enhances Delawareans’ access to telehealth and telemedicine services and, through the adoption of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, ensures that telehealth services can be provided through qualified medical practitioners in a streamlined and efficient pathway to licensure that meets the health care delivery system needs of the 21st century. With respect to telemedicine and telehealth, this Act consolidates the existing law relating to telehealth within a single new chapter applicable to all health-care providers authorized to practice telemedicine and participate in telehealth and makes permanent the telehealth flexibilities put in place for the Covid-19 pandemic. The Act carries through many of the changes embodied in the Covid-19 telehealth legislation passed by the 150th General Assembly in 2020 (HS 1 for HB 348 with HA1, signed 7/17/20), which will otherwise expire on July 1, 2021. The changes made in HB 348 that are made permanent by this Act include: 1. Removing all existing Title 24 statutory requirements that patients present in-person before telemedicine services may be provided. This Act continues the suspension of those requirements, but specifies that the requirement that a patient present in-person prior to the delivery of telemedicine services and telehealth is excused only under circumstances rendering an in-person examination impractical or when there is already an existing relationship established. 2. Modernizing the modality of permissible telemedicine and telehealth services; instead of limiting telehealth to interactions that must involve both audio and visual technology; this Act preserves flexibility for situations where patients do not have access to broadband connections or smartphones and need to consult with a physician by landline or audio-only cell phone, subject to existing professional standard of care requirements. Audio and visual visits will continue to be the preferable method for delivery of telehealth and telemedicine services. This Act also consolidates telehealth and telemedicine scope of practice, which currently appear in each separate chapters of Title 24 pertaining to regulated practitioners in order to provide consistent telehealth practice across license categories. This is increasingly important for facilitating integrated health-care services delivery, but it does not limit any of the existing authority of the State’s professional licensing boards in Title 24 to regulate their respective licensed professions and occupations. This Act adopts the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) in Delaware, joining the 29 States that are already members of the IMLC, including many of our neighboring states (Maryland is a member; Pennsylvania is in process of implementing the Compact; New Jersey has introduced IMLC legislation). https://www.imlcc.org/participating-states/ The long-term benefits of telehealth are best realized when accompanied by cross-state medical licensure capabilities available through adoption of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. The Compact creates a voluntary, expedited pathway to state licensure for physicians who want to practice medicine in multiple states. An eligible physician can qualify to practice medicine in multiple states by completing one application within the Compact, and receipt of separate licenses from each state in which the physician intends to practice. The Compact does not change the scope of Delaware’s authority to regulate physician practice under the existing Medical Practice Act. It simply creates another pathway for licensure.