LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas State Medical Board has passed telemedicine rules to allow doctors to examine patients from a distance through audio and visual technology.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ( ) reported that the standards, which were passed Thursday, call for patients and physicians to establish a relationship before a telemedicine visit.

Doctors may treat patients they have examined before in person, when they have an ongoing professional or personal relationship with the patient, when they are filling in for the patient’s regular doctor, or when they have a referral from another doctor. A relationship isn’t established if a patient only completes online medical history forms and sends them to a doctor.

The board had previously adopted the telemedicine rules, but they were sent back by a legislative committee after receiving complaints about language that was changed after a June hearing.

The change explained that the language on “store and forward technology” in the earlier version of the rules did not include a patient or telemedicine company filling out a medical history form and sending it to a doctor. Since then, the medical board decided to take out the “store and forward” language because it was repetitive.

Teladoc, a phone-based, health-services company based in Dallas, expressed support of the standards after reviewing them. Claudia Tucker, the company’s vice president of government affairs, sent the medical board a letter saying that the company “agree(d) on the importance of these issues in telemedicine to have the patient’s medical record and to review that record before the telemedicine visit occurs, and that process does not need to be referred to as ‘store and forward technology.'”

The newly approved standards will now go back to a legislative subcommittee, and if approved will become effective 10 days after being sent to Arkansas’ Secretary of State’s office.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,