OLYMPIA — Legislation on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee will expand the ability of Washington residents to receive telehealth services from out-of-state health care providers while also installing safeguards to ensure quality health care.

Sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), SB 5481 allows an out-of-state provider to perform telehealth service in consultation with an in-state provider or in the form of a specialty assessment, diagnosis, or recommendation for treatment.

“This is just one more piece in our ongoing effort to make health care more accessible and affordable,” Cleveland said. “At a time when we face a troubling shortage of health care providers, this bill should make it easier to get second opinions on medical matters and offer people more choices in how their medical care is delivered.”

The expanded access could make a critical difference for people seeking mental health care in particular, Cleveland said, and the quality of all types of health care would be ensured by the bill’s clear definitions of care and standards for delivery.

“There’s no question we need to expand access to providers, but we don’t want to do it in a way that compromises quality,” Cleveland said. “We’ve included safeguards to maintain the strong standards of health care that Washingtonians have come to rely on.”

The bill’s unanimous passage by both the Senate and the House makes Washington the first state in the nation to adopt the Uniform Telehealth Act and its guidelines ensuring that telehealth services from out-of-state providers are consistent with the caliber of care in the patient’s state.