Rules and Regulations Governing The Telemedicine Field

Telemedicine may be revolutionizing the medical industry as you know it, but it isn’t doing so overnight, and there’s still plenty to think about when it comes to regulations and legalities. Telehealth services are able to help people across North America as well as other countries worldwide, but each country, and even each state has to think about very specific laws and rules that govern their practice and the way that they’re able to operate as doctors in this business. It’s still a very young concept in some ways as it hasn’t completely been accepted by every state or medical professional as a true way to practice medicine, but the thousands of happy patients who were able to contact their physicians without leaving their homes or local doctor’s office to meet a specialist have second thoughts on that. Still, the law is the law, and it’s important that not only doctors, but patients as well, understand what those laws mean.

State License Laws

Each state is a little bit different in what they allow as far as practicing medicine goes. This is for several reasons, most of which revolve around the patient’s right to privacy and safety, but the majority of online practices guarantee nothing less and are fully functional, licensed internet services with real live doctors just a click away ready to assist with consultations and other medical issues. One of the most important things to remember when it comes to state licensing is that in order to practice on people of a certain state, a doctor must be registered and licensed through that state. Jonah Comstock of writes: “For the most part, the laws that govern the practice of medicine in the United States are state laws. One of the few things those laws agree on is that jurisdiction of those laws is based on the patient’s location, not the doctor’s.”

There are a few exceptions including hospital to hospital consultations or consults between two different positions in private practices, as well as a few other rare cases that exclude the necessity for a certain state license. In most cases any practitioner working in the telemedicine field, whether it’s telemedicine, telehealth, or teleradiology will need to be fully licensed in an unrestricted medical sense, before they can practice in a certain state. Some states with more modern views such as Oregon, Montana, and Alabama offer telemedicine licenses through their medical boards that allow doctors to operate through any state that approves of this kind of licensure without needing any other special certification.

Face To Face Approval

Most states are now understanding of and even encouraging the telemedicine movement, but it is still required by law that all medical doctors must meet with their patients face to face at least once before commencing with any online healthcare This can be a problem in some cases, as the whole point of the telemedicine industry is to streamline the process of seeing your doctor and make it easier to be diagnosed without needed to drive to a clinic or wait in an emergency room for evaluation on something that requires minimal or no care. Although it seems to defeat the purpose of the online atmosphere, it helps gives patients a sense of ease and security to know that the person diagnosing them really is a trained doctor, and developing rapport means return visits.

Obtaining Necessary Credentials

Aside from state license laws there are other credentials that need to be taken into consideration in order to operate from a remote destination. In some states hospitals require doctors to have specific credentials to that hospital before a medical professional can offer consult to any of the physicians in that location. Sometimes this can be solved when a doctor visits the hospital that they wish to work with and courses are taken to approve these credentials; this can be well worth it if you wish to set up a practice that mainly built on consultations between facilities.

Insurance and Payment Guidelines

One final area of legality being covered here is payment options and how insurance providers view this industry. These rules change from state to state just like many of the other regulations above, which means that you’ve got to pay attention and contact your healthcare insurance provider to be certain that you’re covered before entering into a doctor patient relationship through telemedicine. Chris Mazzolini of Modern Medicine explains: “21 states have parity laws that require private insurers to reimburse for telemedicine visits, and 44 state Medicaid programs reimburse in some form for telemedicine, though no two state laws are alike and reimbursement policies vary widely.”

This also means that it might be possible to get funding outside of your regular medical insurance depending on the agreement that you’re under and what’s being offered in your state.

These are just a few of the restrictions and laws governing this new foray into the online world of medicine. For more information on what your state laws are for practice between patients or other medical professionals, appropriate research and due diligence should be completed in order to stay within the law.

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