Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Louisiana Passes Key Legislation

The Louisiana Mental Health Care Reform Legislative package includes two bills on telemedicine passed in the state legislative session. HB 653 will help all mental health professionals’ complete actual exams to assess patient’s needs. The law allows for the use of telemedicine through video and audio technology to enable psychiatrists in different locations to issue emergency certificates that may be needed to commit individuals in crisis.

The second bill concerning telemedicine is HB 193. The legislation ensures that physicians and other mental healthcare professionals who are providing telemedicine services on a voluntary basis for the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHHS) will now have medical malpractice liability coverage. The bill eliminates a major barrier in current law that would discourage physicians from volunteering to provide telemedicine services to patients throughout the state.

Senate bill 287, the “Louisiana Consumers Right to Know Act” requires DHHS to create a web site to be launched before April 30, 2009 so that healthcare consumers will have access to reliable information on costs and quality issues. DHHS will publish key performance data on healthcare providers and health plans to include complication rates for procedures, average costs for procedures, and the number of procedures a provider has performed. This information will enable consumers to compare providers across a range of performance categories.

The Act also calls on DHHS to form a Health Data Panel with healthcare stakeholders and technology experts from the state to advise the agency on best practices needed to collect provider data, adjust the data for accuracy, and to make the data on the web site clear and easy to understand.

The Governor’s budget also supports the second year of the Louisiana Rural Health Information Exchange, a partnership between the Rural Hospital Coalition and LSU Health Sciences Center. The HIE uses telemedicine and electronic health records to connect rural hospitals with the resources at the LSU Health Sciences Center to host the network. This accounts for $13.5 million of the $18 million in funding.