Minnesota’s governor signed the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) well over four years ago, allowing eligible physicians licensed here to apply for expedited licenses to practice in any one of 19 other states.
But even before, the use of telemedicine by Minnesota doctors and patients was rising fast. Released last winter, a study by our Department of Health and the UMN School of Public Health showed that telemedicine visits ballooned by seven-fold from 2010 to 2015. Minnesota apparently looked forward to IMLC and telehealth.
Attorneys who represent doctors and other health care professionals have been gearing up to deal the new landscape. The questions, let alone the answers, are still evolving and medical and legal professionals alike are grappling with that reality. Here’s a taste of the issues we’ll be thinking about in the coming era of remote care.
Medical errors are probably not going anywhere
As telehealth matures, the chances for serious error in exams, procedures and prescriptions might be expected to slowly decline. But the same standards of care are likely to be applied during telemedicine malpractice lawsuits as their traditional equivalents, so physicians may want to guard against overconfidence. Know your technology well and have a healthy skepticism toward it.
Reimbursement is definitely working out some kinks
Currently, there’s a state-to-state patchwork of laws and regulations. And the young telehealth industry is still figuring out business models and strategies for working with patients, doctors, technology, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. And then there are contract law and other legal question. With money to be made, money will get made, of course, but remember to keep informed and consult an attorney.
Fraudulent online schemes
Already, federal charges have been filed in a massive telemedicine scheme involving 130 durable medical equipment companies, $1.9 billion and countless physicians and elderly patients. As with everything else that happens online, remember the option to walk away from anything that seems too good to be true or just plain odd. And have your attorney look things over before you jump in.