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House Passes Telemedicine Legislation

Bill offers convenience, affordably, access for patients

Monday, April 7, 2014, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska House of Representatives today passed legislation offering increased access and affordability of health care in the state.

House Bill 281, by Representative Lynn Gattis, allows patients to obtain over-the-phone or online consultations where physicians can diagnose and, if necessary, provide a prescription. This practice is commonly referred to as telemedicine. Only fully trained and qualified primary care physicians residing in Alaska will be able to offer the service.

“Nowadays, much of our life is conducted online or over the phone,” Gattis, R-Wasilla, said. “In this age where we can do almost everything with a smartphone, it should not be necessary to drive to the doctor’s office to have a physical consultation for many common ailments.”

This bill is as much about access as it is convenience. “With 20 percent of our population living in rural areas, it is imperative that access to routine medical care be as quick and economical as possible,” Gattis said.

HB 281 does not allow physicians to prescribe controlled substances without an examination unless another licensed health care provider is present with the patient.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Veterans Affairs hospital and the military already operate telemedicine in Alaska by using a federal exemption. “This bill mimics the system already in place for some Alaskans and makes it available to everyone,” Gattis said. “Anyone needing medical care would be able to use the affordable and accessible system.”

HB 281 passed the House on a vote of 36-2 and now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

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