ATA: State policies hinder telemedicine

The American Telemedicine Association has suggested some changes to the Federation of State Medical Board's (FSMB) proposed regulation of telemedicine. Among the suggestions: Don't make remote consults more cumbersome than in-person treatment and clear the way for docs to practice across state lines. 

Of the changes it seeks in the FSMB's "Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine," ATA said in an announcement:

"Despite the development of the ATA guidelines, the recent surge in the use of telemedicine and their strong public support, some state medical boards have developed medical practice standards that effectively hinder the use of such services within the state.  ATA has asked the Federation to implement a policy that provides a standard of care for telemedicine equal to that of in-person care in order to promote patient safety, increase the quality of care and expand access and patient choice in health services."

It proposes changing language that:

  • allows patients to choose the physician providing telemedicine, rather than be assigned one at random. ATA says this goes counter to practice in emergency rooms, immediate care centers and such care sites, and isn't clear about when it would apply.
  • defines telemedicine as videoconferencing or store-forward technology, not telephone or email. Phone and email consults remain important tools for patient interaction, it says.
  • requires the physician to be licensed in the same jurisdiction where the patient is located. A recent push, including a House bill, would allow physicians to treat Medicare patients across state lines.
  • requires identifying the doctor and his or her credentials before treatment. ATA argues that sets a higher bar than states require for in-person visits.

It notes that the policy does not deal with physician-to-physician consultations, which ATA has addressed previously.

Efforts to define and advance telehealth remain a work in progress with the federal government using seven different definitions of the practice. A bill introduced in the House seeks to set a federal definition and clear up the confusion from myriad state policies.

To learn more:
- find the policy (.pdf)
- read the ATA letter (.pdf)
- check out the announcement