Panel Recommends Stricter Telemedicine Guidelines
To ensure that "the virtual doctor adheres to the same ethical standards as the doctor who is treating a patient face to face," the West Virginia Board of Medicine's legislative committee is drafting recommendations for regulation of electronic interactions between patients and their doctors and pharmacists -- including consultations, diagnoses, and medication prescriptions, the Charleston Gazette reports. Dr. Henry Taylor, board secretary and state health officer, said that while West Virginia has already incorporated telemedicine legislation, the board "wanted to set ethical standards" for the legislation. The current statute defines telemedicine but does not explore its conduct. One main area of concern is ordering prescriptions via the Internet, in particular, prescribing medicine based on online questionnaires completed by patients. Working with the state pharmacy board, the committee has found wording in the statute that can be construed as stating that information provided on a questionnaire does not constitute "legitimate professional practice," but the board members would like to see more explicit language regarding online prescriptions added. Other recommendations so far include: doing away with online questionnaires; requiring doctors to verify that they had seen the patient; "tracking" the source of prescriptions; and instituting codes and encryption to increase protection of patient information (Leonard, Charleston Gazette, 11/14).