Washington Senate telemedicine bill heard in House committee

A bill that would allow patients to access telehealth services from a location of their own choosing, was heard in the Washington House Health Care & Wellness committee Friday morning.

SB 5436, sponsored by Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, is designed to help more people access health care from their home, or another area that is comfortable to them, Becker said.

Though she was initially concerned about defining “home” broadly, she came around to preferring a broader definition so that more folks could access the care they needed, she said.

“We actually were tasked with defining ‘home’ this last year. And that might sound like an easy thing, and it actually was not,” she said. “The one thing they wanted to do is write this broadly enough that people could feel comfortable in the environment that they chose to seek service, so if we were really narrow it would put too many limitations on the site of service.”

The broad definition means people can seek care from place of their choosing, like a church, community center, their grandparents’ home or their own home, Becker said.

“It has to be where that patient can actually feel safe and comfortable and feel private enough that they can have that conversation,” she said.

David Knutson, speaking in favor of the bill for the Washington Health Care Association, said this could particularly help people living in rural communities.

“We think telepsychiatry and related services could really benefit from this technology,” he said.

The bill will be considered next in an executive session with the committee scheduled for March 15, according to legislative records.

The proposed legislation has bipartisan support and passed through the Senate chamber with a unanimous vote.

Erin Fenner: erin@stateofreform.com, @erinfenner