According to the California Medical Board, physicians who see California patients over the internet must be licensed in California. As stated by the Board: “Physicians using telehealth technologies to provide care to patients located in California must be licensed in California. Physicians are held to the same standard of care, and retain the same responsibilities of providing informed consent, ensuring the privacy of medical information, and any other duties associated with practicing medicine regardless of whether they are practicing via telehealth or face-to-face, in-person visits.” That seems straight-forward enough.
The American Medical Association has said that a physician should not issue prescriptions or treat a patient without having physician-patient relationship, which the AMA says includes a face-to-face encounter before utilizing telemedicine.
What is the status of the telehealth industry?
LiveHealth Online Mobile. LiveHealth is an app that “gives mobile users an easy way to connect with a live doctor for an online video visit using your own mobile device.” It advertises a “live video interaction between you and a trusted, board-certified doctor.” A friend used it for his daughters illness, and viola, the daughter was given antibiotics at a local pharmacy. I logged on and there were three available physicians under Providers – CA. There names were Michael Catalano, an internist; Cameron McCoin, a family physician; and, Andrea Gabel, a family physician. No other information was posted about these physicians. The California Medical Board confirms that all three were licensed in California. However, LiveHealth does not mandate a face-to-face relationship with the patient before giving medical advice and prescribing drugs.
TeleMedicine Physician Group. Another web-based model, TeleMedicine Physician Group, offers physicians who are “U.S. trained, board certified, licensed and credentialed and typically have been practicing 10-15 years. Most are primary care physicians, certified in internal medicine, family practice, and/or pediatrics, but we also employ specialists as needed to meet the requirements of patients. All doctors are verified through the National Physician Data Base (NPDB) and the American Medical Association (AMA) for medical licensure, training and education, work history and malpractice history. Telemedicine Physician Group doctors are credentialed every 3 years, with NCQA provider credentialing standards.” There is no information about whether they are licensed in California or any other specific state. Again, I called to get a physician; a California physician called me back. TeleMedicine does not require a face-to-face meeting.
States and physicians need to continue to work together to create state policies that promote telemedicine in the best interests of patients. Patients should be careful to make sure that physicians are properly licensed and capable of giving care with telemedicine.
Posted by Matt Kinley, Esq.