Clarifying the Telemedicine Connection
By Tamer Abouras
In ADVANCE for Speech & Hearing’s January/February 2016 Digital Edition cover story, we examined the role telemedicine and teleintervention were playing in early intervention for speech-language pathologists and other behavioral therapists.
In that article, the way in which teleintervention was reaching far-flung patients was explored, as were the techniques employed that effectively put parents of pediatric patients in the role of therapists and caregivers to enhance the quality of care. The doctor ADVANCE spoke to as the primary source for the piece was unequivocal: teleintervention and telemedicine are fantastic, cost-effective things and they ought to be expanded and used as widely as possible so long as they continue to prove effective and helpful.
As telemedicine and teleintervention continue to rise as viable alternatives to in-person care, standards and regulations for best practices will necessarily also continue to emerge. One such set of proposals was put forth recently by The District of Columbia Department of Health, rules which (if enacted) “ … would constitute the first regulations on telemedicine practice standards in the nation’s capital,” according to The National Law Review. “Other than a 2014 policy statement, D.C.’s current laws are silent as to telemedicine practice.”
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The comment period, where interested companies and healthcare providers will have the ability to review the proposed rules and contact policymakers with questions and concerns, will last until March 26.
The National Law Review lays out eight major points of emphasis from the proposed rules, including a clear definition of telemedicine, a requirement of what it calls a “valid doctor-patient relationship” and also clauses pertaining to the secure and confidential exchange of information.
With regard to the defining of telemedicine in particular, the rules say that it is “the practice of medicine by a licensed practitioner to provide patient care, treatment or services, between a licensee in one location and a patient in another location with or without an intervening health care provider, through the use of health information and technology communications, subject to the existing standards of care and conduct.”
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In terms of a valid doctor-patient relationship, The National Law Review article summarizes, “A physician must create a valid doctor-patient relationship and perform a patient evaluation to establish diagnoses and identify underlying conditions or contraindications to recommended treatment options before providing treatment or prescribing medication. However, an in-person exam is not required if the physician uses real-time auditory communications or a combination of real-time visual and auditory communications to allow a free exchange of protected health information between the patient and the physician performing the patient evaluation.”
The complete list of takeaways — available at natlawreview.com/article/dc-proposes-new-telemedicine-rules-what-you-need-to-know — are worth taking a look at not just for D.C. residents, but also as a potential template for specific rules and regulations for telemedicine moving forward.
Telemedicine is on the rise — and it could give the old-fashioned term “house call” a whole new meaning.