ATA: Internet-Video Service Not to Blame for Oklahoma Physician’s Medical Practice Violations

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The use of Skype has been inaccurately portrayed as the primary cause for a recent disciplinary action involving an Oklahoma physician and mental health professional, according to American Telemedicine Association (ATA). The physician was disciplined by the Oklahoma State Medical Board for failure to establish a prior physician-patient relationship, narcotics violations, over-prescribing, and failure to maintain records.

The use of Skype has been inaccurately portrayed as the primary cause for a recent disciplinary action involving an Oklahoma physician and mental health professional, according to American Telemedicine Association (ATA). The physician was disciplined by the Oklahoma State Medical Board for failure to establish a prior physician-patient relationship, narcotics violations, over-prescribing, and failure to maintain records.

The physician used the Internet-based video service to treat and prescribe controlled substances for pain-management patients. Federal law clearly prohibits prescribing controlled drugs without a prior face-to-face visit. ATA supports such a ruling. “However, blaming the use of an online video-based communication platform for mistreatment of a patient is like blaming a stethoscope for a physician’s poor judgment,” said Jonathan Linkous, chief executive officer of ATA. “Like any device or technology used in the provision of healthcare, safe and effective medical practices must be followed. Specific training, skills, and techniques, in the use of telehealth should not motivate a deviation from that standard.”

Over the past 15 years, ATA has developed a series of practice guidelines on various clinical applications of telehealth to help improve the technical quality and reliability of telehealth encounters, and to assure the uniform quality of service to patients of telehealth. To view ATA’s published guidelines, visit: http://www.americantelemed.org/practice/standards/ata-standards-guidelines.

ATA encourages compliance with all state and federal laws governing the practice of medicine, the exchange of health information, and remote health services. Policies for telehealth vary in each state according to service coverage, payment methodology, distance requirements, eligible patient populations, healthcare providers, authorized technologies and patient consent. For more information on related public policy issues visit: http://www.americantelemed.org/get-involved/public-policy-advocacy/policy-issues.

About the American Telemedicine Association
The American Telemedicine Association is the leading international resource and advocate promoting the use of advanced remote medical technologies. ATA and its diverse membership work to fully integrate telemedicine into healthcare systems to improve quality, equity and affordability of healthcare throughout the world. Established in 1993, ATA is headquartered in Washington, DC. For more information visit http://www.americantelemed.org.

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