House, Senate differ on telemedicine

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Telemedicine in Florida took another step towards becoming a reality Wednesday when a Senate committee approved the plan, even as the House and Senate continue to have significant differences of opinion on the issue.

In a 7-2 vote, the Senate Health Policy Committee approved measure SPB 7028 establishing guidelines and requirements for healthcare providers to use telecommunications technology and the Internet for treating patients remotely.

On Monday, the House select committee passed its version of a telemedicine bill (HB 751), one that takes a different approach on the amount of regulation applied to telemedicine.

The House version is somewhat lighter on regulation while the Senate bill limits the definition of telemedicine providers to only physicians, which raised objections from the Florida Nurses Association and other groups.

Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners chair Stan Whittaker said Wednesday that nurse practitioners would be “severely limited, if not left out, by the bill.”

Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean was talking about the issue when he pointed to the fact that physicians have medical school training.

Senate committee dissenters were Sens. Jeff Brandes and Sen. Denise Grimsley. Bean cautioned that, as the legislative session proceeds, the Senate bill will likely change. “It’s a start,” Bean told the committee. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.