Antitrust case could impact telemedicine boom

A recent Texas antitrust case involving a telemedicine provider could have a “wide-ranging effect” on the booming industry, according to some experts.

Patients are required to have an in-person physican exam, according to the Texas Medical Board. The case, brought by telemedicine provider Teladoc Inc., said this rule violates federal antitrust laws.

The board recently lost a motion to have the case dismissed on grounds that it was a “state action” and therefore immune to federal antitrust laws. The board filed an appeal of that decision earlier this month.

“It's such a clean case of such a clear majority of the active members of the licensed profession adopting a restriction to try to prevent competition from a new and innovative category of competitor,” said Leah Brannon, an attorney representing Teladoc in the case, during American Bar Association webinar held last week.

Brannon suggested the Texas Medical Board's appeal is due to the significant difference in costs between an in-person physician visit and telemedicine consultations.

Brannon and other webinar speakers agreed the case's profile is boosted by the fact that telemedicine has been on the upswing. In 2015, more than 200 new telemedicine bills were introduced by state legislatures, and some presidential candidates have mentioned the technology as a cost-saving measure, according to Bloomberg BNA.

The use of telemedicine in skilled nursing facilities has recently been gaining traction; a bill to improve telecommunications and telemedicine access for rural providers is currently moving through Congress. The American Health Care Association said Tuesday it supported passing the Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015.