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Patients can more easily connect with their doctors using modern electronic technology now that “telemedicine” is legal and regulated in New Jersey.

“Modern technology can have a positive impact on the delivery of healthcare services by providing patients easier access to care,” said Mary Beaumont, NJBIA’s vice president of Health & Legal Affairs. “This new law establishes a framework for the responsible use of telehealth and telemedicine services as an efficient way to treat residents of New Jersey.”

Sponsored by Senators Joe Vitale, D-19, and Jim Whelan, D-2, the legislation was signed on Friday by Gov. Chris Christie. The law allows healthcare providers to see patients virtually using modern electronic methods that don’t require patients to come the doctor’s office.

The law establishes telemedicine as a platform that uses interactive-real-time, two-way communication technologies. The law specifically excludes audio-only phone calls, text messages or faxes from the “telemedicine” definition. All telemedicine practitioners are required to register with the state Department of Health and cannot charge more for virtual visits than they would otherwise normally charge for an in-person office visit.

Telemedicine practitioners can include doctors, nurse practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical social workers, physician assistants, professional counselors, respiratory therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, and optometrists.

Beaumont said telemedicine will be particularly helpful to people who are medically fragile, lack transportation or live in areas that are without easy access to healthcare. It will also help reduce the need for expensive emergency room visits that occur after regular office hours.

“NJBIA places a strong and consistent focus on the quality and affordability of health insurance in New Jersey because the cost of providing health coverage to employees is one of the most significant challenges facing employers today,” Beaumont said. The cost of healthcare coverage consistently ranks as the No. 1 problem facing NJBIA members in annual surveys, she said.