Governor’s Office Reflects On Telehealth Legislation As Use Continues To Grow

Governor’s Office Reflects On Telehealth Legislation As Use Continues To Grow

By Terri Jo Neff |

Arizona jumped to the national forefront of telehealth in May 2021 when Gov.  Doug Ducey signed emergency legislation that dramatically expanded options for accessing safe and reliable health care services.   

“Our state now has the broadest telemedicine law in the nation, providing greater opportunity for safe and reliable medical services,” Ducey’s office noted Wednesday in a “2021 Year in Review” statement. “Expansive telehealth helps all Arizonans, especially low-income families and those living in rural areas, connect with their medical providers.”

Telehealth or telemedicine is the use of digital technology -devices such as computers, telephones, smartphones, and tablets- to access health care services without needing to be in the same room or even the same state as the medical provider.

In May 2020, the health care consulting firm McKinsey & Company noted the total annual revenue of U.S. telehealth players was an estimated $3 billion prior to COVID-19.  That U.S. revenue stream could jump in a post-pandemic market to $250 billion as health care services continue to shift to a telehealth platform, or what they refer to as virtual or virtually-enabled care. 

A July 2021 updated report by McKinsey & Company noted the utilization of virtual care services is now 38 times higher than before COVID-19. This change has been driven by an increased willingness of consumers / patients to embrace telehealth, as well as an increased willingness of providers to offer such services.

And as seen in Arizona, another key factor in the growth of telehealth is the regulatory and statutory changes, which enable greater access and reimbursement.

“Patients and medical professionals know what’s best for their needs, and we’re working to make sure they have access to those services,” Ducey said when signing the legislation in the spring.  

The governor pointed at the time to the benefits for vulnerable populations and the fact snowbirds visiting Arizona could receive telemedicine from their home state due to Arizona’s new law.  In addition, doctors are assured equal compensation from insurance companies for telemedicine services.

Meanwhile, McKinsey & Company noted in July that investor activity continues to grow at record levels.

“Investment in virtual health continues to accelerate,” the firm noted in its July update, adding that total venture capital investment into the digital health space in the first half of 2021 totaled $14.7 billion. That is more than all of the investment in 2020 ($14.6 billion) and nearly twice the investment in 2019 ($7.7 billion), the update noted.

The University of Arizona’s College of Medicine operates the Arizona Telemedicine and Telehealth Center. It provides telemedicine services, distance learning, informatics training, and telemedicine technology assessment capabilities to communities throughout Arizona.

On Feb. 7, the UA Telemedicine Center is offering a free webinar for medical professionals interested in adding telehealth services to their practice. More information about the “Developing a Telemedicine Program” webinar can be found at

Pandemic Prompted Expanded Telemedicine Use, Bill Expands Care And Codifies Pay Parity

Pandemic Prompted Expanded Telemedicine Use, Bill Expands Care And Codifies Pay Parity

By B. Hamilton

During the first months of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, the use of telehealth increased significantly. In fact, overall, almost half of the people who were undergoing treatment when the pandemic shutdown began reported using some form of telemedicine.

From a new RAND Corporation study, those findings make the news of Governor Doug Ducey’s decision to sign telemedicine legislation all the more welcome to individuals still hesitant to venture out.

House Bill 2454, sponsored by Rep. Regina Cobb, will make telemedicine services provided to Arizonans through the Governor’s Executive Order last March permanent. The governor’s order required health care insurance companies to expand telemedicine coverage for all services that would normally be covered for an in-person visit.

The bill expands access to telemedicine for patients and ensures that doctors receive equal compensation from insurance companies for telemedicine services and allows out-of-state health care professionals to provide telemedicine in Arizona.

“Telehealth was an extremely valuable tool during the pandemic,” said Cobb. “It’s helped Arizonans get in contact with health care providers, mental health specialists, speech therapists, and more from the safety of their home. HB 2454 will continue those efforts and ensure that those living in Arizona receive medical service in a safe and convenient manner.”

According to findings published in the Journal of General, between mid-March and early May 2020, telehealth was used by more than 40% of patients with a chronic physical health condition and by more than 50% of those with a behavioral health condition, according to findings published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Under the bill, medical examinations in the worker’s compensation space can also be conducted via telehealth if all parties consent. It also prohibits healthcare boards from enforcing any rule that requires a patient to visit in-person before being prescribed most medications.

“HB 2454 is a win for physicians and patients alike,” said Arizona Medical Association President Dr. Miriam Anand. “Every patient deserves access to the appropriate care needed to treat their medical conditions. HB 2454 will break down unnecessary barriers to telehealth and help facilitate the delivery of high-quality care to patients across Arizona.”

HB 2454 also requires medical insurers to provide payment parity for telehealth services using audio and visual features and allows health care providers who are licensed in other states to provide telehealth services into Arizona under certain conditions.

According to the JLBC, “the bill establishes the Telehealth Advisory Committee on Telehealth Best Practices which would be tasked with recommending other health care service that may be appropriately provided through an audio-only telehealth format. These services would be covered services starting January 1, 2022 but would not require payment parity.”

The bill does not apply to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) but does require health insurers to cover audio-only health care services if those services are covered by AHCCCS or Medicare.