Telemedicine and new telehealth options are available to an increasing number of patients. In addition to hospitals and health care organizations, direct health care service providers are adopting telemedicine into their medical practices to serve and an increased number of patients. Telemedicine utilizes mobile apps and software allowing doctors and patients to meet in a virtual setting for certain types of services. In other settings, when meeting with your regular doctor, you might use mobile health care technology to bring in a specialist who would otherwise not be available due to schedules and distances. Routine doctor-patient interactions, such as follow up visits and general maintenance can be conducted using telemedicine, saving time and resources for patients who would otherwise need to drive distances to see their doctor. As more people learn of the benefits of telemedicine, there may be a patient preference to see a doctor who can see them in person or by mobile health care technology. In light of the benefits of telemedicine, there are certain legal issues arising in mobile health care. Practitioners should be aware and mindful of licensing issues.
Licensing issues involved in the practice of Telemedicine
Illinois law speaks of telemedicine within the context of the practice of medicine. Anyone practicing medicine and using telemedicine technologies must be licensed by the State of Illinois, and anyone engaging in the practice of telemedicine without an Illinois-issued medical license may be subject to penalties.[i] The general rule is that only an Illinois-licensed doctor may offer services, using telemedicine, to a patient located in Illinois. There are some exceptions to licensing rules, as it applies to patients located outside the State of Illinois.[ii]
Telemedicine does not include the following:
- periodic consultations between a person licensed under this Act and a person outside the State of Illinois;
- a second opinion provided to a person licensed under this Act; and
- diagnosis or treatment services provided to a patient in Illinois following care or treatment originally provided to the patient in the state in which the provider is licensed to practice medicine.
The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact[iii] was adopted into Illinois law on July 20, 2015. The Compact allows physicians to become licensed in multiple participating member states. The state where the medical practice takes place is the state where the patient is located at the time of the first physician-patient encounter, and the physician is subject to the jurisdiction of the state medical board in that state. Where a physician may become licensed in several Compact states, an unfortunate event, such as a medical malpractice lawsuit and settlement could lead to more problems for a physician, making telemedicine a potential benefit and burden.
Pitfalls of multistate licensing and practice
In the event of a malpractice settlement, the insurance provider presents the case disposition information to the National Practitioner Data Bank, the clearinghouse for state medical practice information designed to protect the public from unfit doctors moving from state to state to avoid a negative practice history. If a doctor licensed in Illinois, is also licensed in other Compact states, all the state medical licensing boards may be notified of a malpractice settlement. While Illinois may not take disciplinary action against a doctor for settling a malpractice case, there is no telling what the boards in other Compact states may decide with respect to licensure in their state. If one of the states disciplines the physician, more states may get involved and investigate for purposes of discipline.
While there are plenty of patients for doctors to serve in outlying areas in Illinois, there is an increasing interest in telemedicine among individual providers who can better reach their practice goals through mobile health care technologies. Whether staying within the Illinois boarder or practicing across state lines, there are licensing considerations that may present burdens along with the benefits of telemedicine.
Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C., works with physicians interested in bringing telemedicine into their practice, and advises doctors and organizations about licensing as it intersects with mobile health care.
Chicago health law and litigation attorney Michael V. Favia and his associates in several locations and disciplines, advise and represent licensed physicians in all types of litigation and administrative matters involving licensing and regulatory agencies.
Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C. represents individual physicians and health care organizations in the Chicago area with a variety of legal matters. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates, please visit www.favialawfirm.com and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter. You can also review endorsements and recommendations for Michael V. Favia on his Avvo.com profile and on LinkedIn.