Telemedicine Policy Puts Patients at Center

Providers seeking to treat patients using telemedicine will be required to deliver the same standard of care as they would if they were treating them in person, at least according to a proposal from The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). In fact, these new telemedicine policy guidelines intend to solidify patients' welfare.

Providers seeking to treat patients using telemedicine will be required to deliver the same standard of care as they would if they were treating them in person, at least according to a proposal from The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). In fact, these new telemedicine policy guidelines intend to solidify patients’ welfare.

“The advancements and continued development of medical and communications technology have had a profound impact on the practice of medicine, and offer opportunities for improving the delivery and accessibility of healthcare, particularly in the area of telemedicine,” said the proposal’s authors. “However, state medical boards, in fulfilling their duty to protect the public, face complex regulatory challenges and patient safety concerns in adapting regulations and standards historically intended for the in-person provision of medical care to new delivery models involving telemedicine technologies.”

The State Medical Boards’ Appropriate Regulation of Telemedicine (SMART) Workgroup says the proposal aims to ensure that practitioners use telemedicine appropriately. Key considerations include determining when a physician-patient relationship is established, assuring that a patient’s personal data is kept private, and guaranteeing that patients are properly treated or prescribed medications.

Joshua Ewing, a National Conference of State Legislature health policy specialist, said that new policies about health information technology like telemedicine will be important.

“Many states are turning to telehealth as a way to address workforce challenges—particularly in rural and underserved areas,” Mr Ewing said. “I think many states also feel that telehealth is here, and here to stay. Therefore, they want to make sure they are in front of the issue with proper regulations that ensure patients receive safe, high-quality healthcare that is comparable to that which they would receive in a normal face-to-face interaction with a doctor.”

The FSMB will vote on the policy proposal in April at their annual meeting.

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