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Legal State of Telemedicine Essay

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Updated: Feb 8th, 2022

The United States is one of the countries with the most active legislation in the field of telemedicine. According to Parimbelli et al., “discussion on the legal and ethical implications of remotely exercised medicine started even before specifically designed telemedicine systems were developed” (2). In the last 10–15 years, telemedicine has become more pervasive, and debate about its legal and security implications has arisen. Laws are in force at the state level, but the legal definition of telemedicine at the federal level requires improvement. In 2015, federal legislation HR 691 was introduced to Congress that seeks to establish a federal telehealth standard and serve as guidance for states (United States, Cong.). Core Operational Guidelines for Telehealth Services, developed by the American Telemedicine Association, define telemedicine as the exchange of medical information through telecommunications in order to improve the health of patients. Telemedicine, according to the Guidelines, is not a separate medical activity. However, different states use different approaches to the definition of this term.

States can choose whether (or not) to cover telemedicine under Medicaid, how it is provided, what types of services and practitioners may be covered, and how much to reimburse for telemedicine (“Telemedicine”). Speaking of Medicare, in almost all cases, Medicare only reimburses for live telemedicine – in other words, a real-time video chat between a physician and patient (Iafolla). Telemedicine service is covered under Medicare if the patient is located within a Health Professional Shortage Area.

It is also necessary to separate the terms telemedicine and telehealth. According to Brous, although the terms are often used interchangeably, telemedicine applies more narrowly to clinical services and telehealth more broadly to general health care, such as patient education and monitoring (1). A physician who practices telemedicine should be licensed not only in his or her state of residence but also in the state in which he or she carries out telemedicine services. Also, any legal issues that arise will be resolved under the laws of the state in which the patient is located.

The use of information technologies in the health care system makes it possible to significantly improve the quality of life of the population of any country. Undoubtedly, legal control of telemedicine plays a vital role in the development of telemedicine. At the same time, a significant factor in slowing down the development of remote medicine will be the lag in the legal framework and its deliberate restriction.

Works Cited

Brous, Edie. “Legal Considerations in Telehealth and Telemedicine.” American Journal of Nursing, vol. 116, no. 9, 2016, pp. 64-67, Web.

Parimbelli, Enea, et al. “Trusting Telemedicine: A Discussion on Risks, Safety, Legal Implications and Liability of Involved Stakeholders.” International Journal of Medical Informatics, vol. 112, 2016, pp. 90-98, Web.

Iafolla, Teresa. “Medicare and Telemedicine: Top 10 FAQs.” eVisit, 2019. Web.

“Telemedicine.” Medicaid, 2019. Web.

United States. Cong. House. Telehealth Modernization Act of 2015. 114th Cong., HR 691. Washington: GPO.

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