Modern technology has produced some wonderful results in the medical field, and this isn’t limited strictly to the medicines and procedures themselves. Advances in communications technology allow physicians to treat patients in far-away locations, such as an entirely different state.
This ability of physicians to remotely deliver care to patients is known as telemedicine, which falls under the wider umbrella of telehealth, which also includes such services as remote patient monitoring and even administrative functions.
Telemedicine can be of great benefit to physicians and patients alike, but it’s important to understand the potential legal risks involved.
These risks mainly have to do with licensing. A physician can indeed use telemedicine to provide care to a patient in another state, but it is the patient’s state that determines the relevant license requirements. Physicians who want to use telemedicine to care for out-of-state patients will therefore need to make sure they have the appropriate licenses to do so.
It Pays to Be Prepared
It may be that a physician doesn’t actively seek to practice telemedicine, but the particulars of their patient pool may give rise to the need to do so.
For example, if a physician has patients who spend part of the year in another state, they may require care or advice that can only be delivered via telemedicine, and that state’s licensing rules and regulations then come into the picture.
Physicians should therefore look closely at their patient roster, to find out if it’s likely they will find end up in a situation requiring out-of-state medical licensing to practice telemedicine. They should always be aware of the exact location of any patients with whom they telecommunicate.
So what are the potential legal risks involved in telemedicine? First, it is important to stress that these risks arise only in cases where physicians do not have the appropriate licenses or fail to comply with the rules and regulations of the state in question. If none of this is the case, physicians shouldn’t be worried about legal risks.
However, without the correct licensing, and without following the appropriate rules, physicians open themselves up to potentially losing their malpractice insurance coverage, and receiving fines or other punishment as outlined in state and federal law.