Practice of Medicine

Article

Telemedicine Guidelines

December 23, 2014

Telemedicine has the potential to be an asset for the healthcare community. When used appropriately, it can be a tool for managing chronic conditions, communicating with remote patients, and sharing information with other physicians and healthcare networks. Though there could be many advantages to utilizing telemedicine it’s important to maintain standard of care, quality of care, and patient safety while doing so.

The following are some of the many guidelines the American Medical Association recommends for treating patients via telemedicine.

  1. The delivery of telemedicine services must abide by laws addressing the privacy and security of patients’ medical information.
  2. Physicians should verify that their medical professional liability insurance policy covers telemedicine services.
  3. Physicians must have a medical license in the state where the patient is receiving treatment.
  4. The same standard of care that is upheld in a medical office, should be applied to care given via telemedicine.

In addition, telemedicine presents challenges to healthcare providers in ensuring that integrity and confidentiality are maintained, as well as ensuring the physician's scope of practice is within the legal statutes set forth by the state where the physician is practicing medicine. Providers must determine the individual responsible for documenting the information and how that information is shared.

Telemedical records should be consistent, accurate, and timely, and should contain non-duplicative documentation. Policy should address maintenance of images or recordings that should be considered part of the patient's health record and should be retained according to state retention laws. Availability and location should be noted in the health record. Redundant systems for electronic records should be maintained and an emergency plan established in case of electronic system failure.

Telemedical records should be kept in the same manner as health records. The specific documentation needed varies depending upon the level of telemedical interaction. The organization using the telemedical information to make a decision on the patient's treatment must comply with all standards, including the need for assessment, informed consent, documentation of event (regardless of the media), and authentication of record entries.

Telemedicine is still a developing technology. Though the technology to support delivering medicine via online services exists, there is still much potential for continued growth and innovation. The AMA supports additional research, pilot programs, and demonstration projects that could advance the use of this technology and make it a more feasible option for physicians and their patients.

The AMA guidelines are general and could be used by physicians in any specialty. However, the AMA is encouraging national specialties to develop appropriate practice guidelines, parameters, and standards to address the specific technological and clinical aspects of telemedicine for their specialty. In such cases, physicians should follow their specific specialty guidelines as well as the general ones set forth by the AMA.

For more information about the American Medical Association’s guidelines click here.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.