FTC staffs encourage telehealth regulations for Delaware speech pathologists, audiologists

Staffs of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, Bureau of Economics, and Bureau of Competition have applauded the Delaware Board of Speech/Language Pathologists, Audiologists and Hearing Aid Dispensers’ proposed revisions to its telecommunication and telehealth regulations, which would eliminate the current restriction on evaluation and treatment by telecommunication.

The Board’s new regulation would allow licensed speech/language pathologists, audiologists, and hearing aid dispensers to determine whether telepractice is an appropriate level of care for a patient. Before practitioners could provide telepractice services, however, the proposed regulation would require an in-person initial evaluation.

The proposed removal of existing restrictions on service by telecommunication is a significant and positive step, according to the FTC staffs’ comment. In particular, the changes could enhance consumer choice by providing an alternative to in-person care, potentially reducing travel expenditures, increasing access to care, and increasing competition.

Nevertheless, the FTC staffs are encouraging the Board to consider the potential effects on competition and access of the proposed prohibition on initial evaluations delivered by telepractice, as well as any potential health and safety consequences of the proposed regulation. The benefits of the telepractice provision could be enhanced by allowing practitioners to determine on a case-by-case basis whether telepractice is appropriate for an initial evaluation, according to the FTC staffs, instead of requiring that all initial evaluations be carried out in person.