The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has updated its guidelines for how healthcare professionals can maintain suitable telehealth use, including acknowledging ethical codes, safeguarding patient privacy, and offering welfare patients priority to care.
According to FSMB, there are several elements that have contributed to telehealth’s continued rise as a tool for medical practice. The worldwide COVID-19 crisis and ensuing national public health emergency have by far been the most significant of these triggers (PHE). In the six months following the United States’ declaration of a PHE, the total number of telehealth visits surged by more than 2000 percent. Before the PHE was declared, telemedicine visits made up a small portion of all medical visits. However, Concerns about fraud and misuse, patient safety, and access inequality have also emerged as a consequence of telehealth’s rapid growth. Despite the fact that telehealth expanded quickly as a result of the PHE, it is still used far less often in American counties with lower median incomes, less broadband availability, and less pre-PHE telehealth use than in other areas. Inequitable access to telemedicine has also affected other patient groups, such as elderly individuals, those with minimal English proficiency, and members of particular racial and ethnic minorities.
In order to address the inequities that telehealth brought to light, the FSMB revised its 2014 guidelines on the appropriate use of telemedicine technology The guidelines are intended to be a resource for healthcare professionals so that they can choose how to treat patients via telehealth while considering health equality. The first section of the guidelines stipulates that providers must continually ensure that they put the wellbeing of patients first, uphold suitable standards, consider ethical principles, assist non-physician clinicians, and safeguard confidentiality. In accordance with the second section, all physicians must possess the necessary licenses in order to participate in all screenings, trials, and operations. The proper authorisation for physicians is required, with the exception of any restrictions on their capacity to interact with patients outside of the state in which they are licensed to practice. In the third section, which addresses standards of care, it is stated that telehealth professionals should conduct themselves with the same professionalism as while participating in an in-person interaction. A medical board may reprimand providers if they fail to follow these guidelines. The guidelines’ last section addresses healthcare access equality and how prior to patient visits, broadband internet, and payment coverage must be up to date.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has come forward with support for the FSMB’s guidelines. “The AMA applauds FSMB for its leadership in tackling these tough issues and believes the updated Telemedicine Policy strikes an appropriate balance between supporting advancement of high-quality telemedicine and protecting the standard of care, safety, and privacy of patients”, writes AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara. “For these reasons, the AMA recommends the FSMB House of Delegates adopt in its entirety The Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine, superseding the 2014 policy.”