TRENTON, N.J. – Raising the standard of care from referral to direct coordination of emergency services during telehealth visits reflects the new reality health care providers are encountering, say Assemblywomen Nancy Munoz and DeAnne DeFuccio. Their bill requiring providers to determine the patient’s need for emergency services and then activate and coordinate emergency medical care in the patient’s area passed the Assembly Health Committee on Thursday.
According to the latest data, nearly 23% of Americans used telehealth recently, compared with 21% during the same period last year. New Jersey is among the top 10 states with the most number of patients participating in health visits over the phone or by video.
“Better cooperation between emergency services and providers will increase patient safety for those who prefer virtual medical visits,” Munoz (R-Union) said. “Everyone from psychologists to primary care physicians quickly pivoted to telehealth to protect patients from Covid-19 during the public health emergency, but virtual visits remain a popular choice for many patients. It is inevitable providers delivering telehealth will encounter more crisis situations where patients need immediate in-person, life-saving care. Planning for such emergencies is vital to improving care.”
Under current law, health care providers engaging in telemedicine or telehealth are to make appropriate referrals for emergency care. This bill (A2193) requires providers to develop and directly coordinate emergency care plans that are tailored to a patient’s location during the telehealth visit. The patient’s name, location, and contact information would be communicated to emergency care providers.
“Today’s technology has allowed people to seek the health care they need from just about anywhere, which is wonderful from an accessibility perspective, but challenging logistically when emergencies arise,” DeFuccio (R-Bergen) said. “Best practices tell us that the standard of care should be the same for in-person appointments as virtual ones. That is what this bill will do. It ensures people in non-medical settings get the same quick attention.”
Several studies have shown the importance of developing protocols that include both written and oral communication for when a patient needs to be handed off to another provider for further treatment. The lawmakers’ bill requires providers to have plans to relay information in both ways when coordinating emergency care during a telehealth appointment.
The Senate companion bill (S606) cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee unanimously.