The American Telemedicine Association is seeking comment through Feb. 8 on an update to its "Core Standards for Telemedicine Operations," a document which attempts to offer best practices for providers to ensure quality of service to patients, and to promote reasonable and informed patient and provider expectations.
The update makes four key modifications since the document was first published in 2009:
- It offers enhanced guidance for obtaining consent for telehealth treatment, stating that in addition to the consent procedures used for in-person care, the provider should specifically address issues relating to telehealth such as store forward transmission of data/ images and videoconferencing and explain technical issues such as encryption, the potential for technical failure and confidentiality and limits to confidentiality in electronic communication in language that's easy for patients to understand.
- Added are several new items related to verification of patient/provider identity and service delivery location. Providers should provide their qualifications, licensure information and other information and give patients a source where they can verify this data. Patients likewise may be required to provide proof of identity, such as a driver's license. However, it states that while provider and patient locations must be documented to satisfy licensure laws, the provider does not have to give a specific location if he/she, for example, is practicing from home.
- The document now provides guidance related to mobile devices and services delivered to patients in non-clinical settings. For instance, the provider should request the contact information of a family or community member who could be called upon for support in the case of an emergency and be familiar with the nearest emergency room.
- It also expands guidelines on privacy and security requirements, urging use of multi-factor authentication, an inactivity timeout function and the ability to remotely disable or wipe a mobile device if it is lost or stolen.
On its website, the ATA is requesting comments in four areas: scope, clinical guidelines, technical guidelines and administrative guidelines.
Congress recently passed a bill expanding telemedicine services aimed specifically at members of the military suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Defense healthcare providers are allowed to practice across state lines and another House bill proposes allowing Medicare providers to do likewise.
The Telehealth Modernization Act, introduced in Congress last month, seeks to establish a federal definition of telehealth that would clear up confusion from myriad state policies.