Roberts, Archambault: COVID-19 a sobering illustration of need to open NC to telemedicine

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To say coronavirus has caused significant disruption in the health care system may be the understatement of a generation. With every man, woman and child urged to avoid close contact, seeking medical care of any kind can present a challenge. We need flexibility and leadership willing to embrace innovation. That’s why Gov. Roy Cooper should immediately increase access to out-of-state telehealth providers, and the General Assembly should hone their efforts to protect North Carolina patients and providers.

Telemedicine and other telehealth approaches allow patients to seek health care or information from a medical professional at any distance, typically using a smartphone or computer. Telemedicine has emerged as a crucial tool to minimize contact with others, including providers who are at greater risk when seeing sick patients. Public health officials urge the use of telemedicine to decrease the case load on hospitals and emergency rooms. Yet barriers in place in North Carolina deny residents access to some of the best medical practitioners.

State law establishes this artificial barrier between patients and providers. For example, a coronavirus expert in another state would first need to obtain a North Carolina license to treat North Carolina patients via telemedicine. Gov. Cooper can provide immediate relief by waiving this requirement for out-of-state medical professionals in good standing.