New Guidelines on Telehealth Use and Treatment

April 29, 2014
Laura Joszt

Updated guidelines in the use of telemedicine technology provide a basic roadmap to ensure patients are protected from harm and are provided quality care.

Updated guidelines in the use of telemedicine technology provide a basic roadmap to ensure patients are protected from harm.

The Model Policy on the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine, adopted by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) provides guidelines on safety and quality of medicine through the use of telemedicine.

According to the policy, the same standards of care must be applied during telemedicine care as would be during in-person encounters. In addition to establishing a patient-physician relationship, patients must be properly evaluated and treated, and providers need to adhere to established guidelines of privacy and security of personal health information.

“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,” Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO, MACP, FSMB president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “But as telemedicine has grown, so too, has the need for clear, common-sense guidelines that help healthcare providers transition to this exciting new environment in a safe way.”

Deloitte predicts that in 2014 there could be as many as 75 million telehealth visits in North America alone. The new guidelines allow for flexibility so physicians can choose to use telephone, email, videoconferencing, or other options to provide care as long as they adhere to standards of patient care.

Key provisions

• Standards of care that protect patients during in-person medical interactions apply equally to medical care delivered electronically

•Providers using telemedicine should establish a credible “patient-physician relationship” and ensure that their patients are properly evaluated and treated

•Providers should adhere to well-established principles guiding privacy and security of records, informed consent, safe prescribing and other key areas of medical practice.

"This policy is a bold step towards a reality where all patients can access quality care irrespective of time, place, and location," Roy Schoenberg, MD, chief executive officer of American Well, said in a statement. "Now that the Federation has done its job as leaders, we look to states to do the same - embrace this model policy, and thereby ensure that only safe, secure and appropriate care can be delivered through today's telehealth technologies."