Proposed regulation change could expand telemedicine in Mississippi

Updated: May. 14, 2019 at 7:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Telemedicine is connecting doctors and patients from afar all over the state. But regulations have been limiting the possibilities of using telemedicine in more emergency rooms. There’s only one way you’ll see telemedicine in a Mississippi ER - if UMMC is the provider. But that could soon change.

Mississippi-based T1 Telehealth has been providing telemedicine in clinics and hospital but decided it wanted to offer its services in ERs.

“We wanted to do it in a way that we thought was a little bit less expensive, a little bit faster," explained T1 Teleheath CEO Todd Barrett. "So, we put together technology to allow us to be able to do that. We were blocked by this regulatory burden. We had a difficult time navigating this labyrinth of regulations.”

They brought on the Mississippi Justice Institute to help navigate it. It’s a Board of Medical Licensure regulation that has prevented an expansion in this area of telehealth.

“Only allowed one provider in Mississippi to provide emergency telemedicine services," described Mississippi Justice Institute Director Aaron Rice. "You had to be a level one hospital trauma center and have an existing air ambulance system in place and so that limited it to just one provider in the state, the state’s academic institution.”

May 9, the Board of Medical Licensure agreed to change the regulation, loosening the previous restrictions and opening it up to other doctors and hospitals.

“Bring access to people that otherwise don’t get it or there’s a delay if they do get it," said Dr. Nathan McIntosh, T1 Telehealth CMO. "The health system is overburdened. And even in our state you have all these rural communities and they’re distant from maybe the access of care that they need.”

The Executive Director of the Mississippi Telehealth Association is pleased with the recent board action.

Indeed, we are pleased that the MS Board of Medical Licensure has loosened regulations on delivering telehealth services in emergency rooms. We believe that telehealth, where used appropriately and efficiently, can provide significant increases in access to care as well as providing flexibility and cost savings to providers. Such services utilized in the emergency room will help with after hours care in our rural hospitals where physicians are hard to come by. We anticipate this to be a huge opportunity for rural facilities to provide better care for their patients and help to save lives. We are thankful for the Board’s progressive stance on this matter and look forward to positive results moving forward.

Ryan Kelly, Mississippi Teleheath Association Executive Director

The regulation changes will still have a public comment period and review by the Occupational Licensing Review Commission before they can be finalized.

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