Advancements in telemedicine offer exciting treatment possibilities for rural communities. Through audio-visual technology, patients in small communities now have the opportunity to access the expertise of specialists at large medical facilities in metropolitan areas.
However, along with all of the promise of telemedicine technologies, there are also some important legal issues that health care providers need to understand. One of the most important issues is whether physicians who provide treatment advice to a patient through telemedicine must be licensed in the state where the patient is located. For example, if a patient is located in Washington State, can a physician who is only licensed in Oregon provide telemedicine services to the patient?
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has recently addressed the licensure issue in the Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies. The Policy makes it clear that a physician must be licensed by, or under the jurisdiction of, the medical boards of the state where the patient is located.
It is unclear whether state medical boards will follow the Model Policy from FSMB. For example, Washington State law currently allows physicians licensed in another state to “practice medicine” in Washington so long as they do not open an office or appoint a place of meeting patients or receiving calls within Washington. (RCW 18.71.030). Of course, this provision could change in the future.
In order to avoid the unlawful practice of medicine when providing telemedicine services, physicians and healthcare facilities should take time to understand the licensing regulations in the state where the patient is located.
For more information on the legal issues related to telemedicine, please contact Casey Moriarty.