The State Senate in West Virginia gave unanimous approval to an amended version of HB 2024 in 2021, which represents a significant legislative advancement for telemedicine in the state. This bill was introduced to expand and regulate the use of telehealth services, which had already seen a substantial increase in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a detailed look at its impact.

Expanding Access to Telemedicine

The amended version of HB 2024 allows out-of-state healthcare providers to treat residents of West Virginia. However, the provider must be licensed in good standing in their home state, free from investigations or administrative complaints, and without a physical presence in the state. These providers must also register as interstate telehealth practitioners with the appropriate state board and pay a registration fee, which will not exceed the cost of a local license.

Since each state has unique licensing requirements, providers are forced to undergo a costly and complex process to obtain licenses in multiple states. As a result, the process creates a substantial burden for health systems serving patients across state lines and for providers and specialists looking to expand their telehealth services. This provision helps address provider shortages and facilitates a more diverse range of medical expertise available to West Virginians.

The Inclusion of Audio-Only Phone Services

The Senate bill also broadens the definition of telehealth to include audio-only phone services but removes internet questionnaires, which are typically used in asynchronous (store-and-forward) telehealth platforms.

Audio-only telehealth offers several benefits, particularly for individuals in rural or underserved areas with limited access to high-speed internet. It ensures that patients who lack the technology or connectivity for video calls can still receive timely medical advice and care. This modality is also beneficial for older adults or those who may not be comfortable with video technology.

Impact on Patient Outcomes

Since the pandemic, the use of telehealth statewide has exploded due to increased accessibility and its convenience. Despite its many benefits, the implementation of House Bill 2024 comes with challenges. The virtual nature of telehealth can lead to misdiagnoses or treatment delays due to the lack of physical examinations and direct patient interactions. These issues can form the basis for malpractice claims against healthcare providers for negligence or improper treatment.

Medical malpractice in telehealth is governed by the same principles as traditional healthcare, requiring providers to meet the standard of care expected in their field, equivalent to that of in-person consultations. However, the digital environment complicates the determination of these standards. Factors such as technological reliability, patient compliance, and accurate medical history reporting become critical in these scenarios.

Victims of telehealth-related malpractice have the right to seek compensation for any harm caused by negligent care. Patients should document all telehealth interactions, including communication records and medical advice received. This documentation can be crucial in proving malpractice.

If you or a loved one has been harmed due to medical malpractice related to telehealth, speak to a trusted Charleston, WV Medical Malpractice Lawyer today. We can help you pursue justice and the compensation you deserve.