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Boston University School of Law




Telehealth continues to experience substantial investment, innovation, and unprecedented growth. However, telehealth has been slow to transform healthcare. Recent developments in telehealth technologies suggest great potential for chronic care management, mental health services, and care delivery in the home—all of which should be particularly impactful for an aging population with physical and cognitive limitations. While this alignment of technological capacity and market demand is promising, legal barriers remain for telehealth operators to scale up across large geographic areas. To better understand how federal and state law can be reformed to enable greater telehealth utilization, we review and extract lessons from (1) establishment of a healthcare relationship, (2) state licensure laws, and (3) reimbursement. We analyze these areas because of the legal ambiguities or inconsistencies they raise depending on the state, which seem to be hampering telehealth growth without necessarily improving quality of care. We propose several solutions for a more unified approach to telehealth regulation that incorporate core bioethics principles of doctor-patient relationship, competence, patient autonomy, as well as population-wide questions of resource allocation and access. Lawmakers should clarify that healthcare relationships may be established outside of in-person meetings, align licensure laws via an interstate compact or federal preemption, and expand Centers for Medicare and Medicaid plans to reimburse telehealth delivery in the home.

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