This past weekend, the State Medical Boards’ Appropriate Regulation of Telemedicine (SMART) Workgroup of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) issued a new guidance document designed to help individual state medical boards establish more cohesive and uniform policies for the administration and regulation of telemedicine.
According to the document issued by the SMART Workgroup, these model guidelines provide a basis for state medical boards to evaluate, “the appropriateness of care as related to the use of telemedicine, or the practice of medicine using electronic communication, information technology or other means, between a physician in one location and a patient in another location with or without an intervening health care provider.”
Despite the many benefits that telemedicine can deliver to both patients and healthcare providers – such as expedited care, decreased healthcare costs, reduced readmission rates and improved outcomes – the adoption of telemedicine has lagged across the United States. Part of this slow adoption has been a lack of consistent reimbursement from health insurers. The other significant factor has been a patchwork of different guidelines and regulations for the use of telemedicine from state to state. The SMART Workgroup’s guidelines are an essential first step in helping to eliminate this patchwork of disparate regulations that are present from state-to-state across the nation.
The guidelines issued clearly define telemedicine as, “not an audio-only, telephone conversation, e-mail/instant messaging conversation, or fax. It typically involves the application of secure videoconferencing or store and forward technology to provide or support healthcare delivery by replicating the interaction of a traditional, encounter in person between a provider and a patient.”
This definition reinforces the importance of collaborative video in the delivery of telemedicine services. By utilizing video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions for the delivery of healthcare services, doctors can see the patient in HD, utilize a wide range of scopes and medical devices to get a full picture of the patient’s health and make a more informed and accurate diagnosis.
By working to eliminate the patchwork of disparate rules and regulations restricting the wide adoption of telemedicine across state lines , the FSMB and the SMART Workgroup are helping to increase the access patients have to quality healthcare, improve patient outcomes, enhance chronic condition management and ultimately evolve the delivery of care. Although the states would need to incorporate these new guidelines into their own regulations, we applaud the workgroup’s new guidance and look forward to a future where all patients have access to quality care via video.