Kentucky Considering Legislation That Would Set Requirements for Telehealth


FRANKFORT, Ky.—Kentucky has become the latest state where the legislature is digging into the pros and cons of telehealth and online eye tests in an effort to determine, for the first time, how it wants to regulate the new technology and its implications for eyecare. Last week, a committee in the state’s House of Representatives debated legislation proposed by Rep. Jim Gooch Jr.—HB 191(BR-484)—that would establish certain rules for utilizing telehealth devices and/or applications in the delivery of eyecare.

The Health and Family Services Committee reported “favorably” on the bill with recommendations to delete language related to a requirement for “the assessment mechanism” to be FDA-approved and to add new wording that would require “disclosure to be provided to a patient prior to receiving an assessment,” according to the state’s bill-tracking website.

Dr. Ben Gaddie, past president of the Kentucky Optometric Association, testified in favor of the bill on Thursday at the committee hearing. “There is a difference between doctor-initiated use of telemedicine and consumer-initiated, such as on their phone or PC,” he told VMAIL. “It is unsafe to simply rely on information provided by a consumer; there should be real time interaction between the patient and the doctor.”

Gaddie also noted that there are currently “no standards or required safeguards for citizens of Kentucky as they receive prescriptions and false confidence that they have received an eye exam through these applications.”

The bill cleared the Health and Family Services Committee and now moves to the House floor for consideration. Gaddie said he believes a vote on the measure could come as “early as Tuesday.” If the legislation passes the House, it would move to the Kentucky Senate for further consideration.

The proposed legislation states that a person “shall not operate an assessment mechanism to conduct an eye assessment or to generate a prescription to a patient at a Kentucky residence unless the patient has received an in-person comprehensive eye health examination by an optometrist, osteopath or physician within the previous twenty-four (24) months.”

In addition, the legislation would require that the telehealth mechanism “create and maintain a medical record for each patient, which is for use during the ongoing treatment” and that there is a “simultaneous interaction between the patient and the Kentucky-licensed optometrist, osteopath or physician” during the eye assessment process. A Kentucky-licensed medical professional also would have to verify the identity of the patient requesting treatment via the assessment mechanism.

Pete Horkan, who oversees government affairs for Opternative, told VMAIL the committee discussion last week concluded with the bill moving forward “contingent on the bill sponsor sitting down with ophthalmologists and online technologies to work out a solution to allow all companies to continue to operate.” During the committee hearing, Horkan told legislators that the initial version of the bill would impose difficult requirements on all of the companies developing the new technologies for carrying out eye tests.