Telemedicine is one of the fastest developing markets in healthcare and is expected to grow by about $5 billion over the next five years, as stated in a FierceHealthIT article. Now, it is becoming increasingly essential to establish proper guidelines for its use. The American Medical Association (AMA) is currently in the midst of their annual Meeting of the House of Delegates, during which they determine policies for various health IT topics.
One of the many topics they have deliberated over includes protocol for the use of telemedicine. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) made several recommendations to put ethical procedures in place for improving care coordination and maintaining patient privacy. However, after a Texas delegate spoke out against the recommendations at a reference committee hearing, they have been set aside for review and the council will likely not vote on the subject again until late this year.
In April, the Texas Medical Board established guidelines that will require face-to-face interaction between physician and patient before telemedicine can be used as a method of consultation. However, the new AMA guidelines do not have any such requirement, and, if they are approved, they will be in direct conflict with the Texas rule.
According to Modern Healthcare, the Texas rule was originally set to go into effect on June 3rd but Teladoc, a telemedicine provider based in Dallas, Texas, was granted an injunction by the U.S. District Court in Austin to prevent this from occurring. Teladoc has also filed a lawsuit against the Texas Medical Board over the ruling, claiming, “The board is trying to protect Texas physicians from competition.” Meanwhile, the board firmly maintains that their aim is only to expand “opportunities for telemedicine in Texas.” (Dallas Morning News)
This isn’t the only state issue standing in the way: although a majority of the delegates present at the meeting were in favor of the suggested AMA guidelines, the varying regulations in different states regarding reimbursement and licensing are still a major hindrance for telemedicine. Policies need to become more streamlined across the country for efficient adoption of the practice. Further information regarding the gaps in state policies can be found at the American Telemedicine Association Website.
While the AMA guidelines are on hold for the moment, it is crucial to get them up and running as soon as possible. The use of telemedicine is too valuable to keep suppressed for much longer.
Author: Apoorva Anupindi