The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) recently issued a proposed Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine. This policy, drafted by the group’s Appropriate Regulation of Telemedicine (SMART) Workgroup, is set to be reviewed — and, we hope, approved — this week at FSMB’s annual meeting. LegitScript strongly supports the model policy, and we urge its timely adoption.
Why does LegitScript care about telemedicine?
Many rogue Internet pharmacies masquerade as telemedicine websites, in an attempt to evade enforcement authorities. The rogue online pharmacy presents the patient with an online questionnaire, claiming that a doctor will review it. In many cases, there is no doctor on the other end — it is a sham. If there is a doctor on the other end, most websites pay the doctor a certain amount of money for each questionnaire reviewed, and these doctors may review several online forms a minute. In practice, these websites are “pill mills,” churning out and filling prescriptions without a legitimate doctor-patient relationship. Websites that allow customers to acquire a prescription drug based solely on an online form or questionnaire are usually illegal.
Why can this occur?
In part, the patchwork of state telemedicine laws and regulations creates an environment that is easily exploited by sophisticated criminals. In the area of telemedicine, some states require prior and/or in-person medical evaluations before issuance of a prescription, some prohibit online questionnaires, and some require accurate website registration and transparency — but these laws vary widely. The criminals know this and use these inconsistencies to their advantage. The patchwork creates compliance challenges for doctors and regulators and causes confusion for patients.
Why does LegitScript support FSMB-endorsed standards for telemedicine?
As we’ve seen through our work with NABP on Internet pharmacies, standards endorsed by the national organization can have a profound effect on the Internet marketplace and thus on patient safety. Like the NABP’s Internet pharmacy standards, FSMB-endorsed telemedicine standards could be used:
- by regulators, law enforcement, and LegitScript, to protect patients from rogue Internet pharmacies posing as telemedicine websites;
- by Internet commerce companies, to ensure they only do business with legitimate telemedicine providers; and
- to establish a list of all legitimate telemedicine providers, creating a tool for patients to use to gain access to new, safe points of care.
We proudly support FSMB’s work and urge the adoption of the strong standards for telemedicine.