Original Source: Center for Connected Health Policy
In early June, Texas governor signed SB 71, which establishes a statewide telehealth center for sexual assault forensic medical examination. Effective Sept. 1, 2019, the Texas attorney general is required to establish the center for the purpose of expanding access to sexual assault nurse examiners for underserved populations. The duties of the center will include facilitating the provision of the following services, either in person or virtually:
- Training or technical assistance to a sexual assault examiner
- Consultation services, guidance or technical assistance to an examiner during an examination on a survivor
- Facilitate the use of telehealth services during a forensic medical exam
- Deliver other services as requested by the attorney general
The center will be required to develop operation protocols on telehealth services, standards of professional conduct and care, maintenance of records, technology requirements, data privacy and security of patient information, and the operation of a telehealth center. The bill’s language also allows, but does not require the attorney general to enter into contracts to help implement the center. Likewise, the bill does not guarantee funding, as it suggests that the legislature can appropriate money for the center, but does not require it.
A mHealthIntelligence article on SB 71 points out that use of a virtual care platform will allow the 357 sexual assault nurse examiners in the state of Texas to reach far more victims, and specifically those living in rural and remote areas that would not otherwise have access. The program is modeled after the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center from Pennsylvania State University’s College of Nursing. Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also operated a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) model via telehealth through the National Telenursing Center since 2012 and New York currently has pending legislation, AB 3060, to establish a similar program as well. On the federal level, a bill titled the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act (S. 2948) was introduced by Senator Murray (D-WA) in the 2015-2016 legislative session, and proposed to utilize telemedicine to enhance training and continuing education for sexual assault medical forensic examinations. However, the bill did not advance past the Senate.
To learn more about the newly established Texas statewide telehealth center for assault forensic medical examination,
see the full text of SB 71.