FILE - Virus Outbreak Telehealth

Margo Jarvis takes part in video teleconference at Cohen Veteran's Network's on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Fayetteville, N.C. Since the pandemic began, the organization has pivoted their mental health services to telehealth at their 15 clinics across the United States. 

(The Center Square) – A recent study found Alabama could do more to expand telehealth access for its residents by removing barriers to possible innovation.

The Reason Foundation, Cicero Institute, and Pioneer Institute combined on a report known as the State Policy Agenda for Telehealth Innovation that uses color grades (green being best, red the worst) to assess telehealth policies in each state.

The report also provides suggestions on how each state can improve telehealth laws and regulations to prevent them from acting as a barrier to advancement.

The Yellowhammer State received a green for its openness toward multi-modality for telehealth, along with Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. States that received a green also codify the storage and forwarding of patient information by intermediate stations rather than the destination station.

These intermediate stations can store the information before passing it on to its final destination or another intermediate station.

Alabama also received a green for its openness toward the modality of how a patient seeks out the services of a provider using telehealth technology.

The state received a red for disallowing out-of-state telehealth providers from providing care to Alabama residents, as did Mississippi and Tennessee.

Another red grade was issued for the state’s restrictions on the independence of nurse practitioners, who are required to have a collaborative relationship with a supervising physician. Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee all are similarly restrictive on their nurse practitioners.

The report recommends that Alabama lawmakers should provide “robust definitions” for telehealth in state law, allow a patient-practitioner relationship can begin via any mode, allow nurse practitioners a full scope of practice and argues that the state should eliminate its limited special license for doctors and replace it with an easy registration or a reciprocity law for all providers.

Regional Editor

Steve Wilson has been an award-winning writer and editor for nearly 20 years at newspapers in Georgia, Florida and Mississippi and is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and University of Alabama graduate.