4-1-1 on Telehealth: What the New Illinois Telemedicine Law Means for Hospitals and other Healthcare Providers

Telehealth is a burgeoning, technology-based treatment delivery mechanism that allows healthcare providers to remotely monitor patients, provide real-time interactive care via video technology, and receive or transmit medical data using store-and-forward technology. With benefits such as increased access to care, reduced healthcare costs, and enhanced care coordination, telehealth is gaining wider use and popularity among hospitals and other health care providers in the United States.

This growth has been accompanied by greater regulatory scrutiny. In 2017, over 30 states amended their existing telehealth laws. In some states, these updates became effective on January 1, 2018. The Center for Connected Health Policy maintains a complete listing of the approved state telehealth legislation in 2017, which can be found here.

In Illinois, 2017 saw passage of the Illinois Telehealth Act, the first legislative guidance to telehealth service providers in Illinois regarding the appropriate scope and standards of care for the provision of telehealth services. The new law requires “Health Care Professionals” — defined to include physicians, physician assistants, optometrists, advanced practice nurses and some mental health providers—to practice within the scope of their respective licenses and to follow the same standard of care that is applied to in-person services. 

The provision of “Telemedicine” services in Illinois was explicitly restricted to persons holding licenses issued by the State of Illinois under the Medical Practice Act of 1987, and criminal penalties can result from practicing telemedicine without a license issued in Illinois. While these existing restrictions were not repealed under the new Illinois Telehealth Act, the new law does state that “A health care professional treating a patient located in this State through telehealth must be licensed or authorized to practice in Illinois.”  Section 10 (emphasis added). It remains unclear whether this language would allow a provider who does not hold an Illinois license issued under the Medical Practice Act of 1987 to nevertheless provide telehealth services to patients in this State if otherwise authorized to practice in Illinois by the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC).  Illinois adopted the IMLC in 2015 (P.A. 099-0076).

That legislative uncertainty notwithstanding, telehealth laws in Illinois do permit the provision of medical services by providers not holding Illinois licenses to patients in Illinois in the following circumstances:

  • When providing a second opinion to a person licensed under the Medical Practice Act of 1987;
  • When providing services to a patient in Illinois who was originally treated in the location where the out-of-state provider is licensed to practice medicine; and
  • Where either the patient or the provider is traveling.

In addition, P.A. 100-385 amends the Illinois Public Aid Code and allows a patient undergoing telepsychiatry services to receive such services without a physician or health care professional being physically present in the room. Illinois Medicare regulations still require that a physician or other licensed health care professional must be present at all times with the patient while receiving telehealth treatment other than telepsychiatry.  

We will continue to track telehealth developments on this blog. Subscribe to the blog to receive our latest updates on this topic.

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