Telemedicine has exploded in scope with the COVID-19 pandemic and will leave a lasting imprint on how medicine is practiced, so it is essential for physicians to understand its basic principles and the specific rules that govern it during the pandemic.

Normally, a patient’s residence does not matter, because you see them in the state where you are licensed. However, when you as, for example, a doctor in Manhattan have a video visit with your patient at home just across the river in New Jersey, you are reaching into another state to practice and so your licensure status becomes of interest to that state. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, states have extended licensure waivers. If you will be practicing telehealth with patients from states where you do not have a license, search fsmb.org for “states waiving licensure requirements” to make sure that is permissible.

Bear in mind that these modifications are related to the current pandemic. Do not assume that a waiver will continue past the end of the crisis, and make sure you meet all requirements that may re-establish if you want to continue to offer remote visits to your out-of-state patients, or you could face charges of practicing without a license.

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The advent of the pandemic originally provoked a retreat by insurers, many of whom wanted to exclude COVID-related issues, but that was essentially a brief reaction, and virtual care coverage is now an expanding and competitive market. However, again, beware that while these changes are significantly the result of carriers seeing an expanding opportunity even after the pandemic ends, they are currently backed up by laws that offer considerable immunity from suits for those involved in COVID-19 care. That rates may rise later when such immunization is lifted should be assumed. If you are getting coverage to do telemedicine, remember that it is not just about malpractice. You will need adequate coverage for technical issues and for privacy breaches.

If you have free coverage of some $50,000 for cyber issues on your current policy, make sure to increase it to at least $1 million, because any breach can be costly and telemedicine is inherently more risky being entirely in the vulnerable electronic realm.

This article was written by Dr. Medlaw, a physician and medical malpractice attorney.