Our healthcare and business law firm previously published a blog post on the federal telemedicine rules. Both Federal and State rules govern the provision of telemedicine. Each state’s rules governing telemedicine are different, but the applicable laws and rules are generally found in the state medical board’s rules, insurance code, and Medicaid rules. This post focuses specifically on the telemedicine rules applicable to the practice of telemedicine in Georgia. There are specific rules governing prescribing via telemedicine, which are not covered by this post. If you have questions about telemedicine rules or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, email@example.com. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
Georgia Insurance Code’s Definition of Telemedicine
The Georgia Composite Medical Board (“Medical Board”) generally requires an in-person exam, but the Medical Board Rules allow telemedicine in certain situations. The relevant definition of “telemedicine” is found in Georgia’s insurance code and defines “telemedicine” as:
[A] form of telehealth which is the delivery of clinical health care services by means of real time two-way audio, visual, or other telecommunications or electronic communications, including the application of secure video conferencing or store and forward transfer technology to provide or support health care delivery, which facilitate the assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of a patient’s health care by a health care provider practicing within his or her scope of practice as would be practiced in-person with a patient, and legally allowed to practice in this state, while such patient is at an originating site and the health care provider is at a distant site.
O.C.G.A.§ 33-24-56.4; see O.C.G.A.§ 43-34-31.1 (citing the applicable definition of telemedicine as that within the insurance code).
Georgia Medical Board Rules
Under Medical Board Rule 360-3-.07(a), telemedicine is authorized if:
(3) A Georgia licensed physician, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse either:
(a) Has personally seen and examined the patient and provides ongoing or intermittent care by electronic or other such means; or
(b) Is providing medical care by electronic or other such means at the request of a physician, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse licensed in Georgia who has personally seen and examined the patient; or
* * *
(d) Is able to examine the patient using technology or peripherals that are equal or superior to an examination done personally by a provider within that provider’s standard of care.
In addition, Rule 360-3-.02 lays out what the Board may consider “Unprofessional Conduct.” The rule defines Unprofessional Conduct to include subsection (6): “Providing treatment via electronic or other means unless a history and physical examination of the patient has been performed by a Georgia licensee.” This requirement may be met by following telemedicine Rule 360-3-.07(a)(2)’s requirement that: “A history of the patient shall be available to the Georgia licensed physician, [PA], or [APRN] who is providing treatment or consultation via electronic or other such means.”
Georgia Medicaid Rules
According to the Georgia Telehealth Guidance Handbook, the general rule is that, if the Medicaid enrolled provider determines that the care can be provided via telemedicine “with no loss in the quality or efficacy,” the provider can use telemedicine services. The types of telehealth communications allowed include interactive audio and video telecommunications. Telephone conversations, electronic mail messages, faxes, and webcam or internet-based technologies (i.e. Skype) are not covered. “All transactions must utilize an acceptable method of encryption adequate to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the transmission information.” Georgia Medicaid rules also require the patient provide written informed consent for telehealth visits. Additional coverage requirements are available at Telehealth Guidance Handbook, available here, pages 8-9.
As is clear from the above, medical practices must be thoughtful before offering mental health telemedicine visits. If you have questions about telemedicine rules or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
*Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice.