In early 2019, the Georgia Senate passed two bills addressing telehealth and telemedicine. Both bills address comprehensive healthcare reform in order to reduce costs, increase access, and enhance quality care for Georgia residents. Since 2006, the state of Georgia has addressed telehealth parity law, and continued to address the need and coordination of telehealth care. The most recent bills (Senate Bill 115 and Senate Bill 118) continue to demonstrate how Georgia legislature has updated and revised existing laws.
"The Medical Practice Act of the State of Georgia" (SB 115) became effective on July 1, 2019. SB 115 allows for the provision of telemedicine licenses for physicians licensed and located outside of Georgia to provide care to patients who are located within the state at the time of service. SB 115 adds a new Code that defines the requirements for a telemedicine license.
In order for a physician to be issued a telemedicine license from Georgia, the physician must:
- Hold a full and unrestricted license in a state other than Georgia
- Have a clean record of discipline and action by any other state or jurisdiction
- Meet the requirements established by the board pursuant to the Code in order to ensure patient safety.
In order to maintain the license, the following requirements must be met:
- Licensee cannot engage in practice while physically located in Georgia
- Notify the board immediately of any restrictions placed on license
- Comply with applicable Georgia laws regarding patient records and confidentiality, regardless of physical location of licensee
- Comply with all provision of the Code Section of SB 115
- Violation of Code is subject to telemedicine license revocation
The Georgia "Telehealth Act" (SB 118) became effective on January 1, 2020. An adaptation of Georgia's previous Telemedicine Act, SB 118 revises the definition of terms related to telemedicine (i.e. "distant site" and originating site") and clearly defines telehealth.
- The term "telehealth" means the use of various forms of technology - including telephones and remote monitoring devices - to support clinical health care, consultation, health related education, public health and health administration.
- The term "telemedicine" is a specific form of telehealth encompassing the delivery of clinical health care by real-time, two-way electronic communication by a provider who is legally allowed to practice in Georgia.
In addition, the Telehealth Act increases reimbursement opportunities and patient participation in telehealth. The bill requires that insurers cover telehealth and telemedicine services, while specifying that insurers cannot require that services are provided by telemedicine.
With the passage and effective dates of SB 115 and SB 118, the Georgia state Senate improved their telehealth laws to reflect new terminology, create more opportunities for health care for state residents, and broaden insurance coverage for services provided from a distance.
Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Professional Counselors, who provide telemental health services in Georgia, should be aware of Georgia’s Telemental Health Rule which requires at least a 6 hour CE training on telemental health counseling. We provide a course specifically to meet that rule.