Posted: January 12, 2022
With the nation starting another year in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers are taking note of the importance of telehealth during the last two years and are working to make more services available online.
Florida Legislature Proposes Permanent Telehealth for Medical Cannabis
In 2021, Florida lawmakers in both the state Senate and House of Representatives filed bills that would allow medical cannabis patients in the state to access consultations via telehealth. A temporary policy in place during the COVID-19 health emergency has proved successful. These bills will allow the option for telehealth consultations for medical cannabis to resume and permanently remain in place.
The legislation would require patients to undergo an in-person initial consultation with the prescribing physician, but renewals and subsequent recertifications could be conducted via telehealth. Currently, most medical cannabis patients in Florida renew yearly with a mandatory recertification seven months into each year for progress updates and renewal recommendations. Access to renewals and certifications via telehealth would potentially ease the burden on patients who find it difficult to travel to and from appointments because of their medical conditions.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, former Florida Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees issued an emergency order to allow telehealth visits between existing medical cannabis patients and their physicians for renewals only. It was not permitted for initial consultations and recommendation visits. The emergency order was extended several times before expiring in June 2021. Both SB164 and HB333 are currently in committee reviews and will take effect on July 1, 2022, if they are to pass in their current iterations.
Response to Telehealth in Light of COVID-19
Many states enacted emergency waivers to provide telehealth access to medical cannabis at the start of the pandemic. There are 14 states and four U.S. territories that have passed legislation or enacted long-term waivers to provide broader access to telehealth services, and in some instances, telehealth for medical cannabis.
Telehealth Benefits Medical Cannabis Patients
Across the United States, there are an estimated 3.6 million medical cannabis patients receiving treatment for severe chronic pain and other conditions that may be exacerbated by travel to and from a medical appointment. Allowing routine visits to be conducted through telehealth and cutting down on the amount of travel is a benefit to the patient and helps manage their pain, but it can also be financially beneficial.
Patients save on costs associated with travel to appointments, particularly in more rural states where access to medical care can be hundreds of miles away. Because medical cannabis programs usually have fees for consultations and cards that are not covered by insurance, easing the financial burden on these patients through access to telehealth may help them direct the funds toward their medication and treatment. Patients who take prescription medication regularly as directed typically have better outcomes.
While it remains unclear if telehealth services for medical cannabis will become permanently approved on a broader level, it is apparent that millions of Americans now have greater access to quality health care with the advancement of telehealth.
If you’d like to hear more about how Let’s Talk Interactive can help you use telehealth for your medical cannabis patients, contact us today.