INDIANAPOLIS—Last week, Senate Bill (SB) 3 was unanimously approved by the Indiana Senate. If approved by the House, the bill will establish requirements around telehealth for health care and insurance providers, expand the use of telehealth to additional licensed practitioners and specify which activities qualify as telehealth services. State Senator Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington), who co-authored SB 3, released the following statement explaining the necessity of the legislation:

“SB 3 will allow patients to choose the best, and often most affordable, care for them and their families. Bipartisan support for legislation pertaining to telehealth shows how vital a role telehealth played within Indiana’s health care system over the past year. CDC reports have shown that telehealth more easily facilitated social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 and also strengthened patient-provider relationships.

“Telehealth reduced the strain on health care systems by reducing the number of people in facilities and the amount of PPE needed for health care providers. This past year, telehealth increased health care accessibility for those who are medically or socially vulnerable or who did not have ready access to providers. SB 3 continues and builds upon that progress.”

In June 2020, a report by the Journal of Informatics in Health and Biomedicine stated that racial disparities in telemedicine reflect those of in-person healthcare access. A study conducted by Purdue University on Indiana’s digital divide showed that 866,000 Hoosiers, or 13.4 percent of Indiana’s overall population, live in areas where less than 50 percent of the population have broadband access—primarily rural areas.

Yoder concluded, “The legislature must go a step further and address the digital divide affecting Hoosiers’ access to telehealth services. Future telehealth legislation must center equity in treatment.”