A significant milestone was achieved this week in healthcare. When Gov. Abbott signed into law the telemedicine bill in Texas, not only was the right to access the full spectrum of virtual care services preserved, but a nod was given to the future of innovation, which will continue to positively transform the delivery of care. At Teladoc, we are filled with a sense of pride and gratitude, as this transformation of care has not only been our mission, but something we’ve embraced as our responsibility to champion and ensure for all Americans. Many may not be aware that reaching this momentous point in Texas has been a cause, a challenge, and at times a battle, that we have undertaken for almost half of the company’s history.
The state of Texas faces some of the greatest access challenges in the country – lack of proximity to doctors’ offices and a shortage of doctors and basic medical care resources result in long wait times. Thirty-five counties in Texas have no family physician, and across the U.S., 71% of employer-sponsored ER visits are unnecessary. This lack of access also directly translates to unsustainable costs for the healthcare system, and many of our clients. As a company founded in Texas, with hundreds of employees located there, it has always been clear to us that the right to access telemedicine and innovative virtual care was a critical component to improving Texans’ access to quality care.
Fundamental change typically relies on a new way of thinking, and an innovative approach. We’re a society today that depends on, and frequently takes for granted, the benefits of innovation. In healthcare, innovation can enable each and every one of us to access a doctor and get care no matter where we are. Exciting, right? The quandary has been that regulatory bodies have a history of protecting the status quo, and that’s exactly what happened in Texas.
We understand that change is not easy. In fact, we talk daily with our clients about supporting behavior change in patients so they are learning to ask, “What is the best way for me to get care?” So, knowing that 28 million Texans could benefit from rapid innovation transforming how care is accessed, we chose to take on the responsibility to challenge the status quo and lead the charge to protect telemedicine. And though we didn’t expect it to take more than 6 years, 8 court decisions, and millions of dollars, we are gratified that we have demonstrated the value of telemedicine to the Texas Medical Board and the state of Texas, achieving unanimous support for the bill in both the House and the Senate.
Stepping up to assume the responsibilities incumbent upon an industry leader is rarely easy or convenient. I chose to pursue a career in healthcare because I personally saw the good that could be done. Having joined the young company of Teladoc just a year before the regulatory challenge in Texas began, it would have been easy to have looked the other way and moved away from Texas. But leaders don’t take the easy path. Never once ever did we waver in our conviction to help find a long-term resolution to the state’s internal struggle. Not even when the other telehealth companies stood on the sidelines, refusing to join the fight with us, though they benefit from our hard-fought victory.
Persevering through this all would not have been possible were it not for the fortitude and vision of our team, board members, providers, investors and clients. I am especially appreciative of our doctors who have continued to treat our members without a hiccup throughout this process, despite an ambiguous regulatory environment. For while this victory, in the form of a telemedicine law in Texas, is clearly beneficial to patients, it also sets a standard under which physicians can safely and effectively practice telemedicine.
When I reflect on the course we’ve taken, I am proud of where we have come and what we have achieved. As we continue our journey, Teladoc will remain resolute in its commitment to ensure that regardless of location, patients across the country will have access to care through the modality of their choice. We will continue to promote intelligent innovations in remote care.