Telehealth services to reach more rural Californians

Governor Jerry Brown

A bill signed last week in California aims to greatly increase access to healthcare in rural areas by providing more telehealth services, through more providers, in more care settings.

Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 415, the Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011, on Oct. 7. 

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Authored by Assembly Member Dan Logue (R-Chico), the bill was also supported by the state's telehealth stakeholders and leaders and passed with no opposing votes in the legislature.

Officials say the bill represents a significant advancement for the implementation of telehealth in California and an important update to California's 1996 Telemedicine Development Act because it enables healthcare providers to better provide care for Californians especially in rural and underserved areas of the state.

The act allows for:

[See also: 15 California community groups awarded telehealth funding]

  • The provision of a broader range of telehealth services
  • The expansion of telehealth providers to include all licensed healthcare professionals
  • The expansion of telehealth care settings
  • The ability for California hospitals to establish medical credentials for telehealth providers more easily

The California State Rural Health Association (CSRHA), sponsor of the bill, worked in collaboration with the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), the California Telemedicine and eHealth Center (CTEC), the California Telehealth Network (CTN) and many other healthcare organizations in the state, including the CCHP Telehealth Model Statute Work Group, to make crucial recommendations for the new bill.

"California has long been a national leader in the adoption and development of telehealth, and we are pleased that Gov. Brown and Assemblyman Logue have acknowledged the incredible opportunity we have to revolutionize access to healthcare in our state," said Christine Martin, executive director of CTEC. "This new act enables healthcare providers to take better advantage of telehealth technology for preventative and specialized care that will save and enhance the lives of many Californians."

California Telehealth Network President and CEO, Eric Brown, emphasized that the Telehealth Advancement Act "is vital for reaching patients in areas of the state that do not have access to the care they need."

"This legislation is vitally important not only for those that live in rural California, but all Californians," added Steve Barrow, executive director of CSRHA. "Forcing people to wait for specialty care or making them leave home for long trips to get care is not necessary in modern times, with the new emerging technology and communications available today."