- Telemedicine dominated the list of state medical board concerns going into 2017, according to a survey conducted by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB).
The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, representing some 70 boards and organizations around the country, says telemedicine regulation topped its survey, filled out by 57 boards, while the FSMB’s effort to create a telehealth-friendly Interstate Medical Licensure Compact came in third.
Rounding out the list were resources related to opioid prescribing, which came in second; physician re-entry into practice (fourth) and medical marijuana (fifth).
Other subjects among the 15 listed on the survey were physician burnout, continuing medical education and compliance.
“The world of medical licensure and regulation is rapidly evolving, and it’s important that we have our finger on the pulse of what’s driving that change,” FSMB President and CEO Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO, MACP, said in a press release accompanying the survey’s results. “Increasing our awareness of which topics our member boards are most focused on enables us to become a more effective partner in providing them with the tools and resources they need to accomplish their mission.”
Three-quarters of those surveyed picked telemedicine regulation as a top concern of 2016, reflecting the volatile nature of an industry trying to come to grips with new technology and new methods for delivering healthcare. Several states have grappled with new guidelines for telehealth and telemedicine – including Texas, Arkansas, New Jersey, Florida, Missouri and Michigan – while the American Medical Association, after lengthy discussion, passed new guidelines this year for both telehealth ethics and the adoption of mHealth tools by physicians.
Federal legislation like the CONNECT for Health Act and the recently approved 20th Century Cures and ECHO Act also contain telehealth-friendly language.
Chief among the topics of debate is the definition of the doctor-patient relationship. Several boards have said telehealth platforms – particularly online and telephone-based encounters – shouldn’t replace the traditional in-person doctor visit, and have sought to make that in-person encounter a requirement before moving on to telehealth.
Mobile devices and mHealth apps are also a hot topic of debate. Roughly 260,000 separate mHealth apps are available on the market now, according to recent studies, and some have suggested the market may be reaching its saturation point.
But mHealth apps are still too loosely regulated for healthcare providers, even as some 80 percent say they’ve adopted an mHealth strategy. Sustainability may be an issue going forward. Several non-profits and vendors have launched programs to collate, test and even certify mHealth apps. More recently the AMA, partnering with the Health Information and Management Systems Society and others, launched its own certification platform.
Medical licensure is also top of mind in many states, particularly in its effect on health systems and doctors practicing in multiple states. To date, 18 states have signed on to the FSMB’s compact, with Michigan working toward a legislative vote. The compact seeks to streamline the process for licensing doctors in different states, while enabling each state’s medical board to keep its licensing and administration duties.
Several other professional boards, representing nurses, psychologists and physical therapists, have also sought licensing compacts and other telehealth-friendly legislation.