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Coronavirus In Texas: Governor Temporarily Approves Expansion Of Telemedicine

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - As social distancing has primary care physicians doing more virtual visits, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has temporarily approved a way for patients to get more medical attention from their doctors without leaving their homes.

"We are learning a whole new way of approaching patient care," says CEO of Health Care Associates of Texas Doctor Charles Powell.

Dr. Powell says video conferences and traditional phone calls provide options for patients who need routine medical care, but do not need to come into the office.

In a new order, Governor Abbott expanded telemedicine to also include telephone calls to new patients for diagnosis, treatment, ordering of tests and prescribing for all conditions.

The order also allows FaceTime calls until the state disaster declaration is either expired or lifted.

Dr. Powell explained how a virtual visit to a patient works.

"They will receive a text message 30 minutes before the appointment with a link. They open the link and it is as simple as that."

With phone visits, his office said it takes extra precautions to make sure he is talking to the patient.

"The medical assistant reaches out the patient prior to the appointment get the history and updated medicine and will say the provider will reach out within five minutes."

And it is not just your doctor who may be calling you on the phone or seeing you on a computer.

Governor Abbott expanded the telehealth options to allow speech-language specialists, behavior analysts, hearing instrument technicians and dyslexia therapists to conduct these visits.

The CBS 11 I-Team also learned the payment for these services should remain the same or less as an in-person visit.

The Texas Medical Association says Medicaid will pay for audio-only telephone consultations through April 30.

And, all state-regulated insurance plans should cover medical visits over the phone "at the same rate they would receive for in-person visits."

The American Association of Health Plans, a group representing insurers tells CBS 11, most health plans have waived co-pays for COVID-19 treatments so that would apply to televisits as well.

Doctor Powell says right now this is the best way to keep patients healthy and the only way to make the best of a bad situation.

"From a provider stand point, we like to have as much interaction with our patient as we can."

If you take a phone call from your doctor, you need to ensure it is your doctor's office calling. Check the caller ID.

For more information and more tips from the Texas Medical Board, click here.


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