New Jersey Takes Momentous Step with Signing of Telemedicine Legislation

TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed Bill No. A1464 and S291/652/1954 on July 21st which allows for the practice and reimbursement of telemedicine and telehealth across the state. Before being signed by the governor, the telemedicine bill had bipartisan support and was passed unanimously through the New Jersey General Assembly and the Senate.

“Telehealth” as defined by the bill is the use of information and communications technologies to support clinical healthcare, and “telemedicine” is defined as the delivery of a health care service using electronic communications to bridge the gap between a health care provider and a patient. Telemedicine and telehealth are rapidly growing across the U.S. The American Telemedicine Association estimates that over half of U.S. hospitals use some form of telemedicine. Telemedicine has proven to be particularly effective for increasing access to care from specialty providers who no longer have to be physically present to deliver care.

One example of specialty care that this telemedicine law will help bring to New Jersey is access to child and adolescent psychiatry. New Jersey is estimated to need at least 3 times more child and adolescent psychiatrists in order to qualify as having a “sufficient supply” by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

While telemedicine policies vary in each state, the signing of this bill will make New Jersey one of the most innovative and patient-centered telemedicine states in the country. The state is already home to a handful of telemedicine programs, and the new law will provide the opportunity for the continued expansion of telemedicine.

“We’re enthused by the opportunities for improved access to care that this new law brings to the telemedicine industry and to New Jersey,” says Geoffrey Boyce, Executive Director of InSight Telepsychiatry, a national telepsychiatry service provider headquartered in New Jersey who helped to draft and advocate the bill. “We are thankful for the years of hard work the legislators and other advocates have put into making this come to life.”

Some of the highlights of the new legislation include:

  • They allow New Jersey to join only a handful of states that require reimbursement for telemedicine services to the same extent as for in-person treatments and consultations.
  • They take New Jersey from being only one of two states that lack an official definition of telemedicine to a state that defines how telemedicine can and should be safely and appropriately practiced.
  • They allow greater access to care for patients who were previously not covered for telemedicine services.  Greater access to care is expected to result in better outcomes for patients with chronic diseases and decreased expenditures over time.
  • They allow patients to receive care from the comfort of their own homes when appropriate.
  • They remove the requirement for mental health screeners to obtain an unnecessary, special waiver for services provided through telemedicine.
  • They allow a large range of providers to practice telemedicine including: licensed physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical social workers, physician assistants, professional counselors, respiratory therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists and optometrists.  This wide range of providers will increase the number of services that New Jersey residents can access.
  • They involve minimal cost to the state while providing greater access to care and better outcomes for patients.

The  legislators who helped champion this bill and ensure that New Jersey residents have better access to care include: Pam Lampitt (D), Joseph Vitale (D), Herb Conaway Jr. (D), Craig Coughlin (D), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D), Joe Lagana (D), Raj Mukherji (D), Jim Whelan (D), Diane Allen (R) and Shirley Turner (D).

The enactment of this bill is a significant step for the telehealth industry and increased access to care in the state of New Jersey.