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Telemedicine: Physicians Need to Know State Requirements

As telemedicine grows in popularity, it is important for physicians to be aware of the state-by-state requirements when practicing in this revolutionary area of healthcare. 

Telemedicine is a model of delivering long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration through the use of interactive telecommunications technologies. The model aims to serve patients in remote locations, provide alternative methods of care delivery, and expand the market that can be served by a healthcare provider. Telemedicine services involve clinical services such as consultations, examinations and monitoring of patients, as well as non-clinical services such as continuing medical education, administrative meetings, and provider training. Proponents argue that telemedicine is a modern form of healthcare that saves time, reduces the costs of care and brings needed medical services to remote areas. 

Telemedicine uses multimedia technologies, including videoconferencing, the internet, streaming media, wireless communications, and telerobotic surgical and examination tools, to meet the healthcare needs of individuals. As telemedicine develops, a growing number of subspecialty areas have successfully used it, including home care, radiology, neurology, pathology, dermatology, ophthalmology, cardiology and psychiatry. 

When deciding whether to establish a telemedicine program, it is important to review state licensure requirements as both the location of the physician and the patient are legally significant. 

Listed below is an overview of a few state-by-state medical board approaches to telemedicine licensing. For the entire 50-state survey, go to:www.fsmb.org/pdf/grpol_telemedicine_licensure.pdf.

District of Columbia (DC): Physicians physically outside of DC but practicing medicine on patients living in DC are required to meet the same statutory qualifications as the resident physicians practicing within the DC. Therefore, DC requires a physician to obtain a DC medical license to practice telemedicine on patients in DC. 

Kentucky (KY): Physicians physically outside of KY but practicing medicine on patients living in KY are required to meet the same statutory qualifications as the resident physicians practicing within KY. Therefore, KY requires a physician to obtain a KY medical license to practice telemedicine on patients living in the state. 

Ohio (OH): Physicians are not required to have an OH medical license. Instead, if a physician is licensed to practice medicine in another state, the physician must obtain a Medical Board issued telemedicine certificate. The telemedicine certificate permits a physician to practice telemedicine on patients living in OH, but it does not authorize the practice of medicine in-person within OH on patients living in the state.

Pennsylvania (PA): Physicians physically outside of Pennsylvania but practicing medicine on patients living in PA are required to meet the same statutory qualifications as the resident physicians practicing within the state. Therefore, PA requires a physician to obtain a PA medical license to practice telemedicine on patients living in the state (although some exceptions do exist in PA for physicians near state lines). 

West Virginia (WV): Physicians physically outside of West Virginia but practicing medicine on patients living in West Virginia are required to meet the same statutory qualifications as the resident physicians practicing within the state. Therefore, WV requires a physician to obtain a WV medical license to practice telemedicine on patients living in the state. 

Telemedicine provides an opportunity for physicians to explore innovative services. As telecommunications technologies become more widely available and telemedicine becomes increasingly central to our nation’s healthcare delivery system, physicians may want to explore their business options and the new requirements that accompany those opportunities. 

© 2014 Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. All rights reserved.

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Annually appearing on The Best Lawyers in America list, as well as the Ohio Super Lawyers list, Tom has over 30 years of experience representing health care providers before state, federal and administrative courts across the country. He is the Practice Group Leader for the Government Relations and Health Law Practice Groups.

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