Late last year, The Florida Bar Health Law Section put on the 9th installment of its Master Class on Telemedicine, a "deep dive" into the legal, ethical, and technological issues surrounding telemedicine. Telemedicine is the practice of medicine by a licensed health care professional where patient care or services are provided using medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications. Simply put, telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology. The proliferation of these technologies created an alternative to in-person visits, allowing patients to receive health care services in their homes, workplaces, and elsewhere.
Attorneys from throughout Florida made presentations and held interactive panels on a range on topics in this rapidly changing area of health care law, including the physician/patient relationship, privacy and security issues, and licensure. Weiss, Handler & Cornwell Associate, Samuel Winikoff, presented Telehealth and Substance Abuse Treatment, a discussion of the practical and legal limitations telemedicine presents to health care providers who treat, or seek to treat, mental health and substance use disorder patients.
Telemedicine platforms are among those technologies gaining acceptance, and may be able to make a dent in the ongoing substance use disorder epidemic. In 2013, the Health Resources and Services Administration reported that, "[t]elebehavioral health may be one of the more successful applications of telehealth across the spectrum of clinical services as outcomes and patient acceptance for telebehavioral health are comparable to face-to-face visits." Treatment providers using telemedicine platforms can manage referrals, reduce facility costs, and gain expanded access to experts by bringing primary care physicians and behavioral health clinicians together to screen patients. Providers using telemedicine also create the opportunity for their clinicians to treat a larger number of clients for a longer period, allowing them to have a greater impact with their service delivery
Despite its demonstrated results, adoption or enlargement of telemedicine offerings for behavioral health treatment presents challenges for providers, and has not yet been widely implemented as would seem likely based on the positive results. If you are a health care provider and would like to discuss implementing a telemedicine platform or would like to find out, call Weiss, Handler & Cornwell at 561-997-9995.
Sam's article as well the other materials from the master class can be found online through the Florida Bar, or by clicking here.