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National telemedicine guideline stirs controversy

New guidelines issued this week by the Federation of State Medical Boards have stirred controversy among some patient advocated and health care providers (Source: “Telemedicine Policy Draws Opposition From Patient Advocates, Health Care Providers,” Kaiser Health News, May 2, 2014).

As part of a wide-reaching April 26 policy statement, FSMB changed the definition of telemedicine to care that “typically involves the application of secure videoconferencing… to provide or support healthcare delivery by replicating the interaction of a traditional encounter in person between provider and a patient.” It is not, according to the federation, “an audio-only, telephone conversation, e-mail/instant messaging conversation or fax.”

The statement, which is not a legal document but is intended to help state medical boards’ develop professional policies and standards for their members, triggered a backlash from some stakeholders.

Eight patient advocacy and provider groups wrote FSMB Chairman Donald Polk May 1 asking that the policy be reconsidered.

“We believe the policy … did not account for many of the safe, secure ways patients are accessing health care today, including ‘audio-only’ telephone. Our goal is patient access to safe, secure telemedicine and this may be thwarted if the existing policy is allowed to stand,” the groups write.

But Humayun Chudhry, FSMB’s CEO, said the “policy is not designed to limit the use of the telephone,” adding that “The concern is that … patient safety not be forgotten. Just because you’re using [technology] you should not be able to cut corners. It’s a cautionary note for physicians and for patients.”