End of Alabama state of emergency changes telehealth rules out-of-state

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2021 at 2:07 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The end of Alabama’s COVID state of emergency made immediate changes to telehealth, a service that ballooned during the course of the pandemic.

When people couldn’t go to the doctor’s office, doctors worried their patients wouldn’t receive adequate healthcare. But in some cases, they actually received better care.

The pandemic forced doctors to rethink care, and guidelines had to be relaxed to accommodate the 6,000% increase in telehealth demand.

“When COVID hit, all of a sudden there was a lot of leeway given to providers allowing them to practice across state lines,” explained Dr. Eric Wallace, a nephrologist at UAB and a telehealth expert.

The rules were made on a state level, and now patients in Alabama can’t have telehealthcare outside of the state.

“If they have providers out of state, and they were doing telehealth with those providers out of state, they are no longer going to be able to do that,” said Dr. Wallace.

That puts people like one Hoover mom who has a son with a very rare specialist in Ohio in a tough position.

“When his doctor called, his cardiologist, I said are you kidding?” said Victoria DeLano.

The reality now... she’ll have to spend hundreds to get her son care.

“Suddenly it’s supposed to be safe for us to take our medically fragile child across the country for a doctor’s appointment,” said DeLano.

That’s a problem that could be fixed, Dr. Wallace says.

“One might ask why don’t we have a national medical license, and that’s a good question,” said Dr. Wallace.

He says there’s a national conversation ongoing, and they aren’t sure of the answers yet.

“There are a lot of reasons practicing across state lines might be a good thing,” said Dr. Wallace.

He just wants patients to come first, no matter which state they’re in.

Another element... people don’t even have to go to the doctors office in that state to get care... they just have to cross the border, and can dial in as soon as they do.

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