FTC rules in-person visit not necessary before using telemedicine

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The Federal Trade Commission voted on Wednesday to forego its investigation into the Texas Medical Board's telemedicine restrictions because of a recent ruling allowing Texas physicians to use telemedicine with patients they have not yet met in person.

The state law that previously held the in-person requirement had been under legal question since 2015 when Teladoc sued the board for its violation of federal antitrust laws.

The FTC's decision was made possible because the board's new law:

•  prevents agencies from creating rules that expect a higher standard of care for telemedicine than in-person visits,

•  overrides regulations that block telemedicine before a patient and doctor have established an in-person relationship, and

• repeals a different law that required an in-person visit within an allotted amount of time after an initial telemedicine visit.

“I commend the governor of Texas and the Texas state Legislature for expanding access to healthcare services for Texans through telehealth and telemedicine,” said Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting FTC chairwoman.

Although the investigation is over, the FTC warned state officials against giving board authority to market participants because groups such as non-telemedicine physicians could use such a move to prevent competition. State officials will monitor the situation under federal antitrust laws.

The FTC's decision does not impact the 2015 Teladoc lawsuit. That case has been on hold since April while the parties attempt to reach a settlement. The court's order to stay that case will end Sept. 1.