As it is relatively new, the telehealth industry is far from having a set of standard rules and regulations for telemedicine. However, the American Telemedicine Association has compiled some guidelines for a variety of specialties, selected on the basis of a survey.
There are a variety of conditions that are not on the list but can still be treated through telemedicine. However, the following conditions are particularly well-suited to treatment through telemedicine: Allergies and asthma, Chronic bronchitis, Conjunctivitis, Diabetes, Hypertension, Low back pain, Otitis media, Rashes, Upper respiratory infections, UTIs, Mental illness/behavioral health, Prevention and wellness services.
The usage of telemedicine is not suitable for conditions where in-person visits and physical examinations are necessary, owing to extreme symptoms, forceful interventions, or in the case of procedures for which certain protocols need to be followed. In addition, in the case of a medical emergency, patients need to call 911 or visit the ER immediately.
Ultimately, providers need to use professional expertise and judgment in order to determine whether telemedicine is or is not appropriate in a particular case.
There are only a few states where the law requires providers to obtain the informed consent of patients before employing telemedicine in their cases.
However, it is always a good idea to do so, whether or not it is required by law in your state. Prior to the first virtual visit via telemedicine, providers need to give the patient a clear and simple explanation of how telemedicine works (the timings during which they can avail the service, privacy matters, scheduling appointments, etc.), the rules regarding confidentiality, what to do in case of technical failure, regulations for contact in between virtual consultations, prescription policies, and the coordination of healthcare with other providers and professionals.
Healthcare professionals need to set aside a dedicated area for practicing telemedicine. This area should be well-lit, have clear audio, ensure the privacy of the patient, and be in a place where there are no disturbances. It is also recommended that healthcare providers set their cameras on a steady and even stand, and fix the cameras so they are at eye-level.
Having a contingency plan in place in the case of emergencies and referrals is also highly important.
Lastly, it is essential for the providers to communicate with the patient in a culturally sensitive manner, via a language that the patient understands fully. If the patient is unable to comprehend the provider owing to a language barrier, the use of telemedicine is not advised.