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'Telehealth' Bills Could Be In Trouble

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - Efforts to bolster the use of "telehealth" in Florida could be in jeopardy, as bills remain stuck in House and Senate committees.

Rep. Travis Cummings, an Orange Park Republican who is sponsoring the House bill (HB 545), acknowledged Wednesday that it could be difficult to pass a measure before the scheduled May 1 end of the regular legislative session.

Cummings' bill is in the House Health & Human Services Committee, which is not expected to meet again.

The Senate version (SB 478), filed by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, has not been heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It also is not on the committee's agenda for a meeting Thursday.

Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, involves using the Internet and other technology to provide health care remotely. Supporters say, for example, that it can be used for physicians at major hospitals to treat patients in rural areas. While some providers, including hospitals, already use telehealth, lawmakers have looked at addressing issues such as standards of care.

The House and Senate could not reach agreement on a telehealth bill last year, but lawmakers expressed optimism earlier this year that they would be able to agree on legislation during this session.

"The News Service of Florida contributed to this report."

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