State medical boards adopted policy guidelines for safe practice of telemedicine, a need that is shown by the trouble one physician is undergoing after prescribing antibiotics by phone.
Representatives of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) approved updated guidelines to help ensure the safety and quality of telemedicine technology. The Model Policy on the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine provides advisory guidance that state boards can use to ensure that patients are protected from harm.
Among its key provisions, the model policy states that the same standards of care that have historically protected patients during in-person medical encounters must apply to medical care delivered electronically. Care providers using telemedicine must establish a credible “patient-physician relationship,” ensuring that patients are properly evaluated and treated and that providers adhere to well-established principles guiding privacy and security of personal health information, informed consent, safe prescribing and other key areas of medical practice.
“Telemedicine offers wonderful tools to help expand treatment options for patients, particularly in helping provide care in remote areas, lowering costs and helping support preventive care efforts,” said FSMB President and CEO Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO, MACP, in a press release. “But as telemedicine has grown, so too, has the need for clear, common-sense guidelines that help health care providers transition to this exciting new environment in a safe way.”
Dr. Chaudhry noted that the new guidelines are designed to provide flexibility in the use of technology by physicians, ranging from telephone and e-mail interactions to videoconferencing, as long as they adhere to widely recognized standards of patient care.
The policy adopted by the FSMB’s House of Delegates, which represents all of the nation’s 70 state and territorial state medical licensing boards, is advisory, meaning state boards are free to adopt it as is, modify it, or retain their own current policies regarding telemedicine.
But one physician is already facing possible loss of board certification and other consequences in the 9 states in which she is licensed after Idaho’s medical licensing board sanctioned her for prescribing a common antibiotic over the phone. Two physicians in the state’s legislature are working on a bill that would standardize telemedicine rules for all practice of medicine.