Public Act 15-88 is the first comprehensive law in Connecticut to address telemedicine (also referred to as “telehealth”), and to establish regulatory requirements for providing telehealth services, and mandates certain insurance coverage for such services. Telehealth is a mode of delivering health services to patients via information and communication technologies to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation and treatment, education, care management, and self-management of the patient’s physical and mental health.

Under the new law, any of the following licensed professionals acting within their scope of practice and in accordance with applicable standards of care can provide services via telehealth: physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, naturopaths, podiatrists, occupational therapists, optometrists, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, psychologists, marital and family therapists, clinical or master social workers, alcohol and drug counselors, professional counselors, and certified dietician-nutritionists.

Requirements for Telehealth Services

Telehealth services must be conducted using real-time, interactive two-way communication technology and/or transmitting images and data recorded with a camera or other technology from the patient to the remote provider. The definition of telehealth expressly excludes the use of fax, audio-only telephone, text messaging, and e-mail. Telehealth providers must have access to or knowledge of the patient’s medical history, as provided by the patient, and the patient’s health record, including the name and address of the patient’s primary care provider. Health care services rendered via telehealth must conform to the standard of care applicable to the provider’s profession that would be expected for in-person care and, if the relevant standard requires the use of certain tests or a physical exam, such tests or exam may be carried out using appropriate peripheral devices. Providers are prohibited from prescribing schedule I, II, or III controlled substances via telehealth.

The new requirements include certain patient protections. During the first telehealth interaction, providers must inform their patients about the treatment methods and limitations of providing treatment via telehealth and obtain the patient’s consent to using telehealth, to be documented in the patient’s health record. At the time of each telehealth interaction, telehealth providers must request patient consent to disclose records relating to the telehealth session to the patient’s primary care provider. If the patient does consent, such records shall be shared with the patient’s primary care provider. The provision of telehealth services and maintenance and disclosure of related records must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as amended. Telehealth providers must provide patients with their license number and contact information. Facility fees may not be charged for telehealth services.

The legislation is clear that it should not be construed to prohibit (1) a provider from providing on-call coverage or consulting with another provider regarding a patient’s care or (2) orders of health care providers for hospital outpatients or inpatients.

These requirements are effective as of October 1, 2015.