Mixed Messages

May 5, 2014 by By InTouch Health

When you scan the telemedicine headlines, there’s always cause for celebration – along with moments that make you scratch your head in disbelief.                    

Let’s start with the good news: 

Last month, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) approved a model policy on telemedicine that is strongly supportive of today’s acute care telemedicine. One excerpt reads, “Generally, telemedicine is not an audio-only telephone conversation, an e-mail/instant messaging or a fax. It typically involves the application of secure videoconferencing to provide or support healthcare delivery by replicating the interaction of a traditional encounter in person between a provider and patient.” 

Audio-only telehealth providers immediately put up a big howl, but FASB got it right. A phone call is no substitute for being able to clearly see and interact with a patient. 

And now for the troubling news: the medical licensing board in Idaho doesn’t share the enthusiasm for telemedicine seen in other states. In fact, the Idaho board recently placed serious sanctions on Dr. Ann DeJong for simply prescribing an antibiotic over the phone. The sanctions included a license restriction (preventing her from doing long-distance consults) and a $10,000 fine. 

Mind you, those sanctions took place in a state that has one of the most innovative telemedicine programs in the nation: the St. Alphonsus Idaho/Oregon Telemedicine Network. 

Ironically, the Idaho legislature recently passed a bill calling for healthcare stakeholders to set new – hopefully, more progressive – standards for telemedicine. 

Maybe it’s time for the Idaho board to read the entire 11-page FSMB model policy report – and consider reducing the penalties for Dr. DeJong.