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Effort aims to protect patients in telemedicine practices

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: July 26, 2013 - 1:15 pm ET

If a patient in Wyoming has a complaint about a doctor in Colorado he is seeing via teleconference, it's unclear which state's medical licensing board would investigate.

Kevin Bohnenblust, an attorney and the executive director of the Wyoming Board of Medicine, calls clarifying telemedicine and mobility of license issues “the next revolution in medical licensing.”

The Federation of State Medical Boards is working with HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration on license portability issues (PDF) and to develop ways to protect the public while not standing in the way of the multistate practice of medicine.

“In the old-school way, a patient would see a physician physically in a location where the physician was licensed,” Bohnenblust said. But, for more and more Wyoming residents, a visit to the doctor's office involves meeting with a physician in Denver over the telephone or via teleconference.

“Where is the practice of medicine occurring?” Bohnenblust asked. “If they don't cross state lines, do we still have jurisdiction?”

Most states have followed the Federation of State Medical Boards' recommended policy that the practice of medicine occurs where the patient is located. This issue is especially important in rural states such as Wyoming, where only 40% of the physicians licensed to practice there actually live in the state, Bohnenblust said.

“We recognize that physicians don't just practice in a community or even in any one state anymore,” he said. “Some radiology groups may practice in every state in the union.”

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks

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