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Bill expanding access to telehealth in Delaware becomes law

Delaware Libraries

Gov. John Carney signed a bill Wednesday expanding access to telehealth in the First State. 

The Telehealth Access Preservation and Modernization Act of 2021 makes permanent some of the temporary provisions for remote medical care put in place last year to address the pandemic. 

It extends the measure allowing patients to access telemedicine services even if they’ve never presented to their provider in-person before—when doing so would be impractical.  It also allows telehealth appointments to happen just over the phone, rather than requiring both audio and video technology. This is to help those without broadband internet or smartphones. 

“Families in rural communities will be able to access telehealth even if they struggle with reliable internet,” state Sen. Sarah McBride (D-Claymont), who was among the main sponsors, said during Wednesday's virtual bill signing. “A single working mom will be able to better communicate with her provider after hours. People with disabilities will face diminished barriers to care.”

The law will also bring Delaware into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which makes it easier for physicians to practice in multiple states.

Members of  the healthcare industry—including ChristianaCare—support the new law.  Wayne Smith, president & CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association, said Wednesday that joining the majority of other states in the licensure compact will improve Delawareans’ access to care.

"It’s of great significance, and particularly for a small state, if you think of the number of specialists here versus outside of our borders,” he said.

The telehealth and telemedicine provisions in the law become effective July 1, 2021. Delaware will join the Interstate Medical Licensure CompactJuly 1, 2022.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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