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State lawmakers seek expansion to telemedicine

The use of telemedicine services spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic — and state lawmakers seek to permanently expand access to it.


State Rep. David Bentz (D-Christina) is leading that effort with a new measure building on legislation passed last year to address the pandemic.


“And it’s not just, you know, COVID related fears. It can be issues of having mobility challenges — either physical mobility challenges or just transportation challenges," Bentz said. "That can serve as a burden or a hurdle that exists completely outside of the scope of a pandemic going on.”


Bentz says the new bill aims to increase access to healthcare in rural parts of the states, like Western Sussex County.  This would enable them to see a doctor upstate or across state lines.


It also seeks to remove the requirement that telemedicine be done by video conferencing. Bentz says that gives those without high speed internet the option to get care by the phone.


Bentz says these changes are needed to adapt to advancements in technology.


“As the technology becomes more ubiquitous and people become more familiar with it, both the physicians and the patients — and certainly we’re seeing that a lot now, everybody has been on a Zoom call at this point during this, there’s comfort there that it’s certainly going to be," Bentz said. "This is the direction we’re headed already — so we need to keep going in that direction and we need to embrace it I think as a state to keep up.”


The new bill would also bring Delaware into an interstate agreement allowing doctors in neighboring states such as Maryland and Pennsylvania to offer telemedicine services to patients in the First State.


Bentz adds the legislation has support from doctors, hospitals and patients he’s talked to who praise the increased access and efficiency telemedicine produces.


The bill first heads to the House Health and Human Development Committee - where Bentz is the committee chair.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.


Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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