Losing out on telehealth perks after emergency order expires

Published: Updated:
Credit: UC Davis Health.

Some perks of telehealth are going away in Florida after the state’s public health emergency expired.

Some people have learned telehealth can serve as worst-case scenario when going on a vacation.

“I had been sick the week before, very sore throat, coughing, that sort of thing,” said Sammi Treglown, who used telehealth services. “I got a prescription, good to go. Then, my husband started feeling like garbage on our way there … Then, my daughter got sick as well.”

To make matters worse for Treglown family, it happened during the pandemic.

“Not knowing the area where we were staying in Keystone, Colorado, driving around while you’re not feeling well with another kid,” Treglown said. “It was a lot.”

A walk-in clinic told the family to stay in the car for what could be a two-hour wait, so they looked for an alternative.

“Found telemedicine through my husband’s insurance,” Treglown said. “Just click on a link and get you right to a doctor. We did it from the hotel room. It was perfect … Literally, in 10 minutes, we were diagnosed. A prescription was sent and we just had to go pick it up.”

But the public health emergency declaration that expanded Florida’s telehealth services expired Saturday, taking some pandemic perks with it.

Physicians can no longer use telephones for telehealth services. They also can’t use the platform to prescribe controlled substances or recertify medical marijuana patients.

“The vast majority of the flexibility provided during the pandemic really focused on behavioral health services,’ said Mary Mahew, the president and CCEO of Florida Hospital Association. “We have seen skyrocketing availability and use of telehealth through the pandemic, beyond what we have ever seen for use of telehealth over the last 10 plus years. So we need to make sure that as we go into the next legislative session, if there is an opportunity to make some changes in policy that can continue to ensure that we have comprehensive availability to telehealth, particularly for mental health services for substance use disorder treatment.”

Lee Health expanded its telehealth services during the pandemic, conducting 150,000 telehealth visits.

It has rolled back the emergency provisions but will keep other perks to the platform such as having remote caregivers join consultations.

“I think it’s great,” Treglown said. “I hope they keep it around because that would be convenient next time.”

The emergency declaration also allowed doctors and nurses to cross state lines and work in Florida without a state license. That’s no longer allowed.


Lee Health statement

“Last year (2020) we greatly expanded our Telehealth program from a few specialized practices to all of our LPG Physician offices and support services. Additionally, we expanded our inpatient telehealth to equip all units in the hospitals with Telehealth hardware to allow physicians to rapidly connect to patients. Lee Health will continue to appropriately utilize Telehealth as it provides ambulatory and inpatient patients greater access to healthcare. Over the last 18 months, we’ve leveraged telehealth to bring remote caregivers and loved ones in to the physician consultation, allow deployed service members the ability to see their newborn baby in our Golisano NICU from their phone, have patients perform urgent care and follow up visits from the safety and comfort of their couch and provide rapid specialty consultations inside our hospital walls. While the state did eliminate the emergency protocol, we will continue to utilize telehealth in a myriad of ways to connect patients with the care they need while complying with the exceptions as reported.”

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.