The American Telemedicine Association defines telemedicine as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status”.
Telemedicine technologies include the use of scientific machinery and equipment to enable secure electronic communication and information exchange between a healthcare provider in one location and a patient in another location, with or without an intervening healthcare provider. Telemedicine does not consist of audio-only communication, but typically includes use of video technology which allows the healthcare provider to replicate interactions that occur in traditional, in-person, physician-patient encounters. Modes of communication used by healthcare providers to interact with patients should comply with HIPAA regulations and allow for verification of the individuals transmitting and receiving information.
Although telemedicine has the potential to improve several aspects of medical care, such as facilitating physician-patient communication and monitoring treatment of chronic conditions, telemedicine poses unique challenges in ensuring patient-safety and privacy of health information. It is therefore prudent for telemedicine providers to implement measures that safeguard the integrity of the care they provide to patients. Healthcare providers should ensure that their recommendations and treatment plans are feasible based on the resources available to patients. It is also important that telemedicine providers get feedback from their patients regarding what they expect during telemedicine encounters and the aspects of telemedicine in which they wish to participate.
Telemedicine policies and procedures should address the following: licensure; establishment of the physician-patient relationship; evaluation and treatment; informed consent; continuity of care; referrals for emergency services; medical records; privacy, and security of the patient records, exchange of information; disclosures and functionality of online services; and prescribing.
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has published guidelines for practicing telemedicine in order to ensure that telemedicine meets standards consistent with the current practice of traditional medicine. Below you will find general guidelines adopted from the FSMB’s “Model Policy” and the American Telemedicine Association.
Find out what you need to address in your practice's or hospital's telemedicine policy.