First ever telemedicine regs proposed for nation's capital

The District of Columbia Department of Health has proposed rules for telemedicine practice, the first such regulations for the nation's capital, according to The National Law Review (NLR).

The department is taking comments online on the draft proposals through March 26.

Among the proposed rules:

  • The District defines telemedicine as treatment of a patient in another location "through the use of health information and technology communications, subject to the existing standards of care and conduct." It generally does not apply to audio-only telephone conversations, or treatment by email, instant messaging or fax, according to NLR.
  • Providers must hold an active D.C. medical license to perform telemedicine services. For any services rendered outside of D.C., the provider must be licensed for the state in which the physician is physically located and where the patient is physically located. One D.C.-licensed physician can cover for another.
  • A valid doctor-patient relationship must be established beforehand, though that doesn't require an in-person visit as long as that visit includes real-time communication between doctor and patient, the article said.
  • The physician must create and maintain adequate records of the encounter that must go into the patient's medical record.

Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the country are joining the number of insurers that are starting to provide reimbursement for more telemedicine services, easing one of the biggest limitations on the practice.

Florida's state Legislature unanimously passed a bill last week to set up a Telehealth Advisory Council to make recommendations about the regulation of telehealth services in the state. However, recently doctors in Mississippi opposed a bill in the state House that would allow out-of-state physicians to treat patients by telephone. They say a visual component is essential to effective telemedicine.

Meanwhile, Texas's strict requirement on an initial face-to-face encounter between doctor and patient could pose a hindrance to the University of Texas System's plans for a statewide telehealth network.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- Comment on the rules