Idaho Medical Licensing Board, Lawmakers at Odds Over Telehealth

May 2, 2014 in News

The Idaho Board of Medicine and state lawmakers appear to be divided over the use of telehealth services in the state, the Spokesman-Review reports.

State Medical Licensing Board Sanctions Doctor Over Telehealth Use

Earlier this year, Idaho’s medical licensing board sanctioned a physician for prescribing a common antibiotic to a patient over the telephone without conducting a physical examination.

In 2012, Ann DeJong signed up with a telehealth firm called Consult-a-Doctor, which referred calls to her for consultations in the nine states in which she is licensed to practice medicine, including Idaho.

However, the board determined that DeJong violated the state’s standard of care for medical practice and that she “aided and abetted” Consult-a-Doctor in violating state laws and standards.

The sanction prevents DeJong from consulting with patients by telephone or other telecommunication tools, and required her to pay nearly $10,000 in fines and complete a medical ethics course.

The ruling triggered similar investigations in the other eight states where she is licensed to practice. So far, three states have decided not to take action against DeJong.

Lawmakers Propose Telehealth Bill

Meanwhile, the Idaho Legislature recently passed a bill calling for stakeholders to create standards for physicians to practice telehealth in the state.

The bill, co-sponsored by state Reps. John Rusche (D) and Fred Wood (R), directs the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to coordinate a group of stakeholders — including the Board of Medicine — to develop rules for telehealth that would be the standard for care across various fields, including psychology, medicine and social work.

Rusche, who also is a physician, noted that the practice of calling in prescriptions for patients without in-person consultations is quite common. He also highlighted how telehealth services could benefit those in rural areas, which typically have fewer doctors.

He said, “If you’re in Challis and you want a dermatology or pulmonology consultation, it’s going to have to be done with telecommunications.”

Telehealth Provider Leaves State

The lack of clarity around telehealth regulations in Idaho prompted Teladoc, the largest U.S. telehealth provider, to cease offering its services in the state this spring.

According to the Spokesman-Review, the company — which purchased Consult-a-Doctor in September 2013 — had 20,000 members in the state, including individual accounts and those set up through employers or unions (Russell, Spokesman-Review, 4/27).

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