19 July 2013

ATA Calls for USA Doctor Licensure

What are the problems of today that are standing in the path of telemedicine? It is state laws promoted by the different state medical boards. These state medical boards jealously guard the state borders and protect the doctors within their borders so that other doctors must become licensed to practice in that state.

This does not protect patients and often harms patients when they travel or are in another state on business. Can they pick up the telephone and order a prescription if they become sick with something they have been treated for before? No, they must see a doctor in the state they are in. The only exception is if they have a prescription issued by their home state doctor and use the pharmacy chain that fills the prescriptions at home. Example: At home, they have their prescriptions filled at Walgreens and obtain another prescription before they travel and when they have a repeat episode, take the prescription to a Walgreens wherever they are located during their travel. Walgreens can then check the records at the previous pharmacy and once verified they can fill the prescription. Otherwise, under current laws, they would be required to see a different doctor in the state where they are located.

I know of an executive from Minnesota that traveled to Illinois on business and became sick. The doctor there would not take him as a patient and sent him to the local hospital emergency room. There he was misdiagnosed and given the incorrect treatment and ended up almost dying because they would not listen to his wife and contact his doctor in Minnesota. During the transfer to another hospital, his wife recognized the airport they were passing and redirected the ambulance to the corporate jet and flew him home.

Using the jet's communications, she alerted the doctor and he had an ambulance waiting when the plane landed. The records were fortunately with the wife (the ambulance had given them to her), and she handed them to the ambulance personnel and they communicated with the hospital. When he arrive at the hospital, everyone knew what was wrong and they confirmed the correct diagnosis and had to give medications to blunt the previously given medications and then give the correct medications. Not everyone can be as fortunate as him and have this type of service. The hospital where this was started was notified that the diagnosis was incorrect and that they could forget billing for their services unless they wanted to be sued for malpractice.

This is just one more reason to support the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) in their campaign to change the licensure system for doctors in the USA. The U.S. military and Veterans Affairs (VA) Department have already acted to fix licensure barriers. So have the European Union and many other countries.  The American consumers, health providers, and taxpayers are being left behind.

Please read these three articles, two by the ATA, here and here, and this by the
Commonwealth Fund. This is an ongoing battle that the ATA has been trying to get resolved since August of 2011. Apparently, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) is not interested in following his first promise and others are attempting to have federal legislation passed in the face of stiff lobbying by the different medical groups want to keep licensure for the states.

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