AK: Legislature Passes Telemedicine Bill

Telemedicine takes a giant leap forward in Alaska. The state legislature passed House Bill 281, thanks to efforts of author Rep. Lynn Gattis (R – 9th District).

This bill allows patients to receive diagnoses and prescriptions online or via phone. Mimicking Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Veterans Affairs hospitals, and US Military exemptions, this program will allow all Alaskans to receive telemedicine. Only fully trained and qualified primary care physicians residing in Alaska will be able to offer the service. This move works, in a state like Alaska where, as Rep. Gettis states: “20 percent of our population [lives] in rural areas.”

Nowadays, much of our life is conducted online or over the phone. In this age where we can do almost everything with a smartphone, it should not be necessary to drive to the doctor’s office to have a physical consultation for many common ailments […] It is imperative that access to routine medical care be as quick and economical as possible.

The bill will not allow for controlled substances to be prescribed, unless a qualified medical professional is on-site. Some concerns over telemedicine still exist. Antibiotic overprescription may grow more prevalent. Delivery of medications may prove problematic, if prescriptions rapidly grow without the infrastructure of manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacists adjust.

In the end, the benefits of increased accessibility and convenience matter for all stakeholders: providers, carriers, patients. Alaskan healthcare is by far the most expensive, according to to operate as a provider or carrier. Telemedicine may reduces costs of prescriptions, which represent 9% of Alaska’s $7.5 billion in healthcare spending.